I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO Review: 10 (Who Will Be a Witness?)
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO is an Oscar-nominated documentary directed by Raoul Peck. Based on James Baldwin's unfinished manuscript Remember This House and narrated by actor Samuel L. Jackson, the film explores the history of racism in the United States through Baldwin's reminiscences of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.
James Baldwin described the original book as a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends-Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin's death in 1987, he left behind only thirty completed pages of his manuscript. Now, Raoul Peck has adapted the transcript, envisioning a visual form of the book James Baldwin never finished. Alongside, there is added footage of Baldwin's speeches and appearances in the same era, adding haunting, prophetic words to the film. Peck wisely juxtapositions images of the whitewashed Hollywood dream factory and magazine layouts--the Kodak pictures of Anglo-Americana against the cruelty of lynchings and the rabble of hate. The mixture of archival material and current events creates a sort of stream of consciousness approach to the movie that is altogether mesmerizing and equally shocking to the mind and soul of the audience.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO is a radical and up-to-the-minute examination of race in America. It is a journey into black history both in fact and fiction that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present struggle of #BlackLivesMatter. Baldwin openly questions black representation in Hollywood and beyond. Serving as a sort of guide and witness to the deeper connections between the lives and assassination of these three leaders, Baldwin and Peck have produced a work that challenges the very definition of what America stands for. It is a must-see for those who want to further understand this country's history and its future. As Baldwin says, "...the story of the Negro in America is the story of America..." Baldwin chooses to boldly proclaim his stake as an American who loves his country--while staring unflinchingly at the brutality and hate he has witnessed. May we all have the same boldness to bear witness ourselves.