American Santa

An indictment of American racism written on the back of a Christmas card
Year Released
Film Length(s)
24 mins
Closed captioning available Audio description available
Remote video URL


American Santa offers an unflinching look at Black Santas, juxtaposing their festive role with the racism they encounter, providing a poignant look into cultural diversity and societal challenges.


American Santa delves into the seldom-seen world of Black Santas in America, presenting a narrative that is as heartwarming as it is eye-opening. At the heart of this documentary is the exploration of the complex duality these Santas experience – the joy and magic they bring to families during the holiday season, contrasted sharply with the racism they face in their roles. Through a series of intimate interviews and candid moments, the film paints a vivid picture of these men who embody the spirit of Santa Claus, capturing their laughter and warmth, as well as their resilience in the face of prejudice.

The documentary, while centered around the festive backdrop of Christmas, brings to the fore broader societal issues. It offers an unflinching examination of how deep-seated biases and racism manifest even in beloved cultural traditions. The personal stories of these Black Santas, from their interactions with children and families to their handling of racist encounters, provide a unique lens through which the film explores themes of representation, identity, and the need for inclusivity. American Santa not only celebrates the unsung heroes of the holiday season but also serves as a powerful commentary on the need for a more understanding and diverse society, making it a poignant and thought-provoking watch.

Director Commentary

On December 6th, 2022, I heard a story on NPR’s “All Things Considered” that caught my attention. Juana Summers was interviewing a man, Stafford Braxton, about his business - “Santas Just Like Me.” In the interview, Stafford not only describes the joy he brings to families by making Black and Brown Santas available but also the racist pushback he endures.

Stafford said: “Matter of fact… when you're approaching the Santa set where I'm located, you cannot tell what the Santa looks like… And so the little girl was anxious, ready to go see Santa. And when she saw Santa, she was ready to get in line to go see him. But the mother said that's not the kind we like… So you can see how racism is perpetuated from one generation to the next. I receive multiple phone calls. I saved about ten or fifteen that have been very vile, and I wouldn't even repeat the stuff that has been said to me or to Santa.”

As someone who has also been on the receiving end of anonymous anti-Semitic voice messages, listening to this part set my teeth on edge, sparked my vision for the film, and was a stark reminder of how racism, often rooted in learned ideas and attitudes, continues to manifest. This understanding – that it's not just individuals, but the propagation of racist ideas that create racists – became the driving force behind the film.

American Santa is not just a recount of events; it's a poignant contrast between the joy these Santas spread and the scourge of racism they endure. It underscores a critical message: it's not just individual acts of racism that are the problem, but the underlying racist ideas that perpetuate this cycle. With Stafford's brave support, our film delves into the emotional reality, resilience, and grace of these Santas, juxtaposing their joyous moments with the harsh reality of racism.

I aim to not just tell a story but to ignite a conversation – to challenge viewers, educate them, and inspire a deeper understanding of equality. American Santa is a journey into understanding how changing ideas can lead to changing attitudes, hopefully shaping a better, more inclusive world.

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • Audio Description
  • Closed Captioning

Film/Audio Languages

  • English

Subtitle/Caption Languages

  • English
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