I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

I Am Not Your Negro
Director: Raoul Peck
Writer: James Baldwin, Raoul Peck
Based on: James Baldwin‘s unfinished manuscript Remember This House
Narrated by: Samuel L. Jackson
Seen on: 6.7.2017

James Baldwin was not only a political activist himself, but was also close to civil rights leaders Medgar EversMalcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. In the manuscript he never finished, he tried to tell their story, as well as the general history of the USA, especially with regard to race. Peck builds on the manuscript and crafts a documentary from it that chronicles the civil rights movement and race relations in the US.

I Am Not Your Negro sheds a fascinating light on USAmerican history. Baldwin was a sharp observer and obviously had a way with words – I loved to discover his perspective.

I was surprised how little the film focuses on Baldwin himself, which was maybe the only thing that I really would have liked to be different about this documentary – just because I was so impressed with Baldwin’s observations, his knowledge and his way to phrase them all in a simultaneously impressive and expressive way that seems to cut right to the heart of things. But I guess that just means that I will have to start reading his writings – it’s bound to pay off.

In any case, I really learned a lot while watching this film, starting with the fact that I wasn’t really aware of Medgar Evers until this documentary. And I learned about it in a way that my head felt full afterwards, but not overwhelmed.

That may make it sound like I Am Not Your Negro is a purely intellectual pleasure, but the film is also very emotional, mirroring Baldwin’s own passion and giving his words an intensity that they would have otherwise lacked. This in turn meant that it makes its points even more clearly.

Peck combines Baldwin’s words with historic, well-chosen footage, including a few interviews with Baldwin himself. He makes it obvious how much things have changed – and how little at the same time. There is still a long way to go with pretty much everything regarding race.

Summarizing: Very much worth seeing.

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