A Must See: “I Am Not Your Negro”

17 Mar

Now playing in Los Angeles County at Laemmle’s Music Hall, Sundance Sunset Cinema and Landmark Regent.  Check show times.


I can only say, “Bravo” to ‘I Am Not Your Negro.’

Because of Director Raoul Peck, even in death, the late, great novelist, poet and social critic, James Baldwin, lives through his words and images.

From the text of Baldwin’s unfinished final novel, ‘Remember This House,’ the film confronts the audience with what it means to be Black in America.  However, this film is not only about race relations in the United States, it is about our history that so many good intentioned people deny and refuse to accept responsibility for, partly out of ignorance and partly out of lack of self-reflection.  Peck and Baldwin do us all a service by forcing us to face our past.

Samuel L. Jackson narrates with all his eloquence.

Near the end of the film, Jackson says these words of Baldwin, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Not only is this sentence poetic, it holds truth for us, as a society and for us as individuals.  As a society, for the U.S. move forward, it must face its racism, the racism of whites towards people of color, including the genocide committed against the indigenous, which still manifests itself today.  As individuals this film forces us to face our own racism, individually and collectively.

Baldwin’s novel was his attempt to face the assassination of his three friends: Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers and Malcom X.  Peck takes Baldwin’s words and faces the recent killings of young African-American men, racial violence more generally and more specifically the struggles of Black Lives Matter.  The result is beautiful and horrific because we (black and white and everyone in between) must face man’s inhumanity to man.

Behind me sat an African-American teenage girl crying in response to the horror she witnessed.  However, her mother was holding her symbolizing the beauty between her and her mother.

Also near the end Baldwin said he was an optimistic because he was still alive.  To be alive means we can still struggle, which is where our hope is.  Baldwin’s insights and words remind us the struggle will continue because no other choice exists for those of the oppressed and their allies.

Long Live James Baldwin.

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