‘Uncorked’ Understands the Value of Black Business — Which Is All Too Rare
The Netflix movie delivers a fresh take on entrepreneurship and punctures some lingering biases in the process
As restaurants across the country teeter on the brink of closure because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Netflix has just released a feature film that centers on one. Uncorked follows Elijah (Mamoudou Athie), a young man in Memphis pursuing his goal of becoming a master sommelier while managing his father’s expectations that he take over the family’s BBQ joint. Make no mistake: A movie about a Black man’s journey into the world of wine isn’t just fresh, it’s urgently needed. Typecasts and stereotypes are costing Black business owners billions of dollars in real life.
We’ve grown accustomed to a destructive narrative about Black communities that assumes their conditions directly result from the behaviors of their residents. While many wax poetic about how special Memphis, New Orleans, Detroit, and other Black-majority places are to the American landscape, the speechifying doesn’t lead to investment and revenue growth for Black neighborhoods — largely because we devalue the Black people in them. Outsiders don’t see the assets or strengths in Black communities because they can’t get past the narrative that Black people are problems needing to be solved.
Many who grew up in Black neighborhoods heard elders use the phrase “our ice is just as cold.” They knew to push against the false, wealth-robbing narrative that goods and services in Black neighborhoods are inferior. But people living outside those communities continue to dismiss them.
Breaking from that tired storyline, Uncorked centers Black family, business, and culture as assets that are worthy of investment. But what makes the movie truly novel is how writer-director Prentice Penny didn’t shy from showing the high value of Black family and businesses. Through numerous…