I Am Not Your Negro
Director: Raoul Peck
Running Time: 95 minutes
“The people, in general, cannot bear very much reality. They prefer fantasy to a truthful recreation of their existence.”
In Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, that line is said by author/civil rights activist/sometimes narrator James Baldwin. A variation on the famous quote by T.S. Eliot, it’s a line that gathers in the back of the mind as one watches this extraordinary new film about Baldwin’s intertwined existence with the struggles of the civil rights movement. Here is a film that eschews easy answers while presenting an intimate story framed against the cosmic struggle of a nation fighting itself. I hesitate to call it a documentary. It should be a required history lesson.
Formed by director Peck from the unfinished draft of writings by James Baldwin entitled “Remember This House,” I Am Not Your Negro unmistakably channels the voice and attitude of its author. Elegantly loquacious and incisively smart about how he says things, the film intersperses photos and videos of Baldwin and his immersion into the civil rights story in the late 50’s after returning from living in Paris due to his disillusion with American Jim Crow tactics.
Becoming friends with all the key players, including Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers, Baldwin provides a front row recollection of this time, stirring up so many feelings, emotions and mundane historical suggestions that it’s one of the most heartfelt memoirs I can imagine.
~~ Joe Baker, dallasfilmnow.com