Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The Michaela Coel Thriller Hidden Gem You Can Find On Netflix

There's a very famous saying that "those who don't know history are destined to repeat it." The history we teach to our children in schools is unquestionably full of holes — for every story told, there are many lives, struggles, and triumphs that go ignored. So it would seem there are many moments, even cataclysmic ones, that we are collectively doomed to revisit. One place where we try to deepen our education (or at least entreat ourselves to research further) is fictional storytelling. We take something from history that really happened, we build a human (albeit fictional) drama around it, and hopefully, it reminds us of the moments and the people we've forgotten.

English writer, producer, and director Hugo E. Blick often explores aspects of recent human history and their impact on current events through the lens of television. His 2014 series "The Honourable Woman," for example, deals with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — something we're talking about a lot these days. In 2018, Blick crafted "Black Earth Rising" which explores the long-term consequences of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The series, which is currently streaming on Netflix, stars Michaela Coel, the creator of the popular HBO show "I May Destroy You," as Kate Ashby, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. In "Black Earth Rising," Ashby finds herself — through her family, through her survivor's guilt, and through the dangers of history repeating itself — spurned to understand what really happened in 1994. It's a series about why history is a living, breathing thing and why the past, present, and future are inexorably tied to one another.

Let's talk about why you might want to watch the eight-episode series.

Black Earth Rising connects Rwanda's past with our present

Over the course of about 100 days, somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million people were killed in Rwanda as global leaders all across the world did nothing, according to Semantic Scholar. Many events led to the genocide but the spark that finally brought things to a head was the assassination of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana which brought an end to any hope for peaceful negotiations during the Rwandan Civil War.

"Black Earth Rising" is set some 25 years later and focuses on Kate Ashby who is not only a survivor of the genocide; she was also adopted by Eve Ashby (Harriet Walter), a white, English litigator working to bring perpetrators of the genocide in Rwanda to justice. The series wastes very little time in pointing out the hypocrisy of England — a nation known for its colonization and destabilization of other nations –deciding they will the ones to dole out justice in Rwanda.

There are three reasons to watch "Black Earth Rising." One is the way Blick weaves his story around real events — it is a thriller, so there are plenty of betrayals, deaths, and twists during the series. The second is Michaela Coel herself — her performance elevates the entire story tremendously, and a supporting role from John Goodman doesn't hurt either. But the larger reason to watch "Black Earth Rising" is that the Rwandan genocide is not something that should ever be forgotten. 

Forgetting history means dooming ourselves to repeat it. Any nation can find itself with differing communities who threaten to commit violence against governmental leadership. Seeing and understanding the connective tissue of how that type of violence leads to generational trauma, even across country lines, is incredibly important at any point in history, and now is absolutely no exception.

"Black Earth Rising" is streaming on Netflix now.