I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO: a Raoul Peck documentary
How about a documentary about the topic that has been on everyone's lips and in most people's actions for decades? I Am Not Your Negro explores race relations in the United states through eyes of James Baldwin, writer, poet and social critic. Check out the trailer below.
At the time of his death in 1987, Baldwin had an unfinished manuscript entitled “Remember This House,” a memoir about his personal recollections of the lives and deaths of civil rights leaders Medgar Evans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Filmmaker Raoul Peck used his writings to build his new documentary essay I Am Not Your Negro, an exploration of race relations in the United States. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the film places Baldwin’s voice front and center as he conveys his thoughts and experiences of living as a marginalized figure in American society.
”There are days,” Baldwin says in an on-camera interview, “when you wonder what your role is in this country and what your future is in it.”
Since its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of last year, the film has won up numerous awards on the festival circuit - the People’s Choice Documentary Award at TIFF, the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at the Chicago International Film Festival and was recently awarded the Best Documentary prize by the Los Angeles Critics Association. It also placed third in the Best Documentary category in the IndieWire Critics Poll.
"In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his new endeavour: the writing of his final book, Remember This House, recounting the lives and successive assassinations of his friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Baldwin was not able to complete the book before his death, and the unfinished manuscript was entrusted to director Raoul Peck (Moloch Tropical, Murder in Pacot) by the writer's estate.
Built exclusively around Baldwin's words, Peck's I Am Not Your Negro delves into the complex legacy of three lives (and deaths) that permanently marked the American social and political landscape. Framing the unfinished work as a radical narration about race in America, Peck matches Baldwin's lyrical rhetoric with rich archival footage of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, and connects these historical struggles for justice and equality to the present-day movements that have taken shape in response to the killings of young African-American men including Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, and Amir Brooks." (tiff.net)
“The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story.” Samuel L. Jackson recites that line in the trailer.
Check it out:
"Peck occasionally takes advantage of some of Baldwin’s more prophetic passages to flash-forward through time. Images from Ferguson, the Obama inauguration and the dross of daytime TV aren’t there so much to say “see, he was right?” as to make us realize the timelessness of his greater arguments. Baldwin did much of his best writing about America while living as an expatriate, and this outsider’s perspective (shared by Peck, who is from Haiti) brings with it a tremendous amount of clarity. I Am Not Your Negro’s specifics are only intermittent, like reporting on different reactions between white and black audiences during Sidney Poitier films. By and large this film concerns itself with the greater philosophy of why groups in power behave the way they do. This might be the only movie about race relations I’ve ever seen that adequately explains – with sympathy – the root causes of a complacent white American mindset. And it took a black writer and director to do it." (The Guardian)
"James Baldwin is a towering figure who deserves a great biographical documentary. “I Am Not Your Negro” doesn’t pretend to be that film. Watching it, you discover a great deal about Baldwin, but you won’t learn when he was born (in 1924) or when he died (in 1987). You won’t learn about the contours of his literary career or how, exactly, he blossomed into someone who was ubiquitous on television. (You might, however, shed a tear for the lost age when literary figures got asked to be on talk shows.)" (Variety)
I Am Not Your Negro will open in theaters on February 3, courtesy of Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing. Amazon Studios has acquired exclusive streaming rights to the film, which Independent Lens co-funded. It also will air on PBS late this year.
Related: I Am Not Your Negro