I Am Not Your Negro (2016)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBBB.  

France/USA, 2016.  Velvet Film.  Screenplay by James Baldwin.  Cinematography by Henry Adebonojo, Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross.  Produced by Remi Grellety, Hebert Peck, Raoul Peck.  Music by Alexei Aigui.  Film Editing by Alexandra Strauss.  Academy Awards 2016Dorian Awards 2016Gotham Awards 2016Independent Spirit Awards 2016.   National Society of Film Critics Awards 2016.  North Carolina Film Critics Awards 2016.   Online Film Critics Awards 2016.  Toronto International Film Festival 2016Washington Film Critics Awards 2016.

Celebrated author and civil rights activist worked on a book meant to cover the lives and deaths of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., all of whom he knew personally before they were assassinated, but never got past fifty pages of notes.  These writings form the skeletal basis of this elegant, moving documentary in which Samuel L. Jackson reads Baldwin’s text while Raoul Peck expertly compiles footage without any additional commentary.  We see Baldwin’s consciousness form as a member of an oppressed population in America, his sharp observations contrasted with the entertainment he was taking in at his local movie theatre (the footage of which is expertly chosen and looks gorgeous here).  As an adult, his fame as a writer meant he was called upon to give speeches or interviews on national talk shows, expressing his views in that wonderfully performative but also sincere manner of his, all the while Jackson’s narration maintains the experiences of the deceased mens as fascinating counterpoint.  Peck avoids conventional biography and so will likely inspire some disappointment for keeping details of Baldwin’s life mostly obscure;  his being gay is mentioned only in passing but is not really explored, as it is never a part of the author’s public presentation of himself (at least not in the footage included here).  A great example of the personal as political and a tribute to a great artist (one who was too harsh on Doris Day, mind you, but a great artist all the same).

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I’d love to watch this documentary. Pity his sexuality hasn’t been explored, but I guess that’s not what this is about. It’s more to do with race, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., et al!!
    Why was he harsh on Doris Day?? I guess I have to see this to find out!!
    Nice Review!!

    1. Bil Antoniou says:

      Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s