Touching documentary about how an autistic boy learned to understand the world through the magic...
Veteran Haitian-American documentarian Raoul Peck—via the writings of James Baldwin—creates an unusual, detailed, and sprawling picture of race relations in America and why a “race problem” exists only to the extent that some people want or need it.
Is it worth $10? Yes
An Oscar-nominated (Best Documentary) American film, “I Am Not Your Negro” verges on creating its own genre, despite the Academy’s facile categorizing. Director Raoul Peck, who was born in Haiti, envisioned the movie to bring to life a staggeringly insightful yet unfinished memoir by the great “Bard of Harlem,” James Baldwin. What’s unusual (and brilliant) is that Peck created not a documentary about Baldwin and his “Remember This House” manuscript, but a film that uses Baldwin’s writings as narration in telling the author’s original story.
With the blessing of the James Baldwin estate, Peck set about to make a movie version of the venerable author’s memoir. Samuel L. Jackson, superb as the narrating voice of Baldwin—in Baldwin’s words—explains that his book meant to collide his experiences and relationships with three of his murdered friends: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and anti-segregationist Medgar Evers. The director includes Baldwin more in the first-person story—via vintage interviews and photos—than the author himself would likely have, but it’s absolutely to the benefit of this more-important-than-ever film.
The fierce fear of an integrated America must be overcome. We have a choice today: fully integrated neighborhoods and schools (the call of MLK and others for over 50 years, tragically ignored by most) or the completion of America’s demise and the utter obliteration of our nation.
So, in 2017, it’s difficult to imagine a better way in which to engage with James Baldwin’s works than “I Am Not Your Negro.” Peck’s rendering of Baldwin’s vision, with its clarity and urgency, also ranks as a top tool with which to deconstruct the false narratives of inevitable racism.
In today’s tumultuous social climate, one can’t help but feel gratitude for the cinema. To the same degree that the political psychopaths have fanned the flames of hate for their own benefit, independent film has become a welcoming, courageous refuge for truth. It’s an encouraging thought that real healing for a United States of America “on the brink of spiritual death,” to borrow Dr. King’s words, is as readily available as mindfully experiencing “Selma” (2014), “Moonlight” (2016), and “I Am Not Your Negro.”
Andres Solar reviews new fare with an emphasis on art house and indie for Punch Drunk Movies. He feels that Jean-Marc Vallee (“Dallas Buyer’s Club” , “Wild” ) is highly overrated, and that David Gordon Green (“Prince Avalanche” , “Joe” ) is highly underrated.