I Am Not Your Negro

February 5, 2017 at 6:55 pm | Posted in 2016 | 1 Comment
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In what can only be called a searing and timely documentary, director Raoul Peck digs claw and tooth into the festering wound that is the American racial psyche. Ostensibly, this is a film about the great African American author James Baldwin (“Go Tell it on the Mountain,” “Giovanni’s Room,” “Notes of a Native Son”). Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson and drawing largely from Baldwin’s unpublished memoir, “Remember This House,” the film takes us through Baldwin’s memories of the deaths of three of his friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm x, and Martin Luther King Jr. The deaths give a sort of grim cadence to the film, as the audience waits for each one to be marked on screen. Along the way, we are treated to (if “treated” is the right word; perhaps, “entreated” would be better) Baldwin’s insight, foresight, rhetorical analysis and incandescent rage. With an emotional honesty so raw it was shocking, he almost pleads with White America to understand what we have done over our long history and how disingenuous it is of us now to just expect an inconvenient problem to go away. Peck elegantly splices in images of modern America to remind us of how many of these core problems are still with us. Peck allows Baldwin’s eloquence to speak across the decades– his voice so pure, so earnest, so emotional that it has the power to shake a darkened theater in an America not much brighter than the one he went out of. I dare anyone to remain unmoved by his searing rebuke of Bobby Kennedy’s predictions of a Black president or his impassioned obliteration of a Yale professor on the Dick Cavett show. No documentary speaks more to the pain of our time than this one, which unleashes a voice from three decades earlier. What does that tell us about where we are today?


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  1. I was deeply moved by the film. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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