Your Summer 2011 Movie Guide

We know you've already heard about all the blockbusters. But here's our list of underrated summer flicks.

By Jorge Rivas Jun 30, 2011

We’re a week in to Summer 2011 and there are already a dozen movies in theaters created to take over the season — Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Cars 2, and The Hangover Part II are just a couple films already setting box office records. The new Harry Potter movie has already been generating buzz for months, and it doesn’t even come out for another two-weeks.

But we’ve got a list of summer flicks that may not be on your radar. They feature people of color caught in extraordinary circumstances, whether it’s battling the criminal justice system or learning how to love in the military. And though some of the material is heavy, there are some fun and thought-provoking ones in here, too.

Check out the list of films below to help you offset all the summer blockbuster hoopla. And don’t worry, Mr. July (a.k.a. Will Smith) will not be making an appearance on this list.

Crime After Crime

A documentary film on the legal battle to free Debbie Peagler, a black mother from Compton, CA who was imprisoned for twenty-six years due to her connection to the murder of a man who abused her. She finds her only hope for freedom when two rookie attorneys with no background in criminal law step forward to take her case and challenge the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office.

But it’s not just Peagler’s quest for freedom that’s unique.


She was incarcerated at the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla, California, the largest women’s prison in the country. And while there, she directed the prison gospel choir and earned two associates degrees while behind bars.

This may not sound like a Summer afternoon film, but it’s Oprah Winfrey approved–think, Oprah’s Book Club. Except it’s the OWN Documentary Film Club. Film opens nationally in July. Visit the film’s site for more detailed dates.

Gun Hill Road 

Director Rashaad Ernesto Green is a 33 year-old Bronx-native who used his family’s story for inspiration for this film about a Latino family in the Bronx. In it, father returns home from prison after three years to an estranged wife and a son who’s questioning his sexual identity.

Green received a Spike Lee Fellowship in 2009 and was named one of indie WIRE’s "Ten Exciting New Voices in Black Cinema."


Opening in Los Angeles and New York on August 5. Visit the film’s site for a list of cities and release dates.

No Look Pass

This film follows the story of Emily ‘Etay’ Tay, a first-generation Burmese immigrant who grew in Los Angeles’ Chinatown and goes on to becomes a star basketball player at Harvard. The films digs deep into Emily’s dreams — and the ones her parents have laid out for her. The film takes us from Los Angeles to Cambridge and Germany (where Tay strives to becomes a profesional basketball player) and deals with sexuality, family and race.


"No Look Pass" premieres July 9th at Los Angeles’s Outfest. Check the film’s site for future dates.

Life in a Day

On July 6, 2010, YouTube asked their community members to capture their day on camera to develop in to a full-length documentary. It was a time capsule of sorts. The idea was to collect different perspectives from all over the world and mold them into the cohesive story of a single day on earth.

The end result? How’s this for a line-up: Kevin Macdonald, who directed The Last King of Scotland, and Ridley Scott, whose credits include directing Black Hawk Down and Thelma & Louise.


The two filmmaker culled together all the footage to show users of all ages, sexes and races from across the globe. In the end, it’s a simple mission to show that we’re not really all strangers, after all.

In theaters nationwide on July 24th. 

Just Like Us

This documentary features Egyptian-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed alongside a host of critically acclaimed international stand-up comedians as they tour Dubai, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.

Director Ahmed Ahmed hopes his film will change the misperceptions Americans have of Middle Easteners. "I wanted to use a comedy tour as a way to deliver a message"

"Just like us" is currently playing, for showtimes visit the film’s site.



Freedom Riders

Can’t make it to a theater? Try this one out for size.’s Jamilah King wrote about  this important re-telling of a pivotal moment in American history back when it premiered last spring. But now you can watch the entire film online! Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson uses interviews with key players of the era to document what would eventually become one of the civil rights movement’s major victories.