Joe and I went to the Barbican Centre this weekend to watch ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ written by James Baldwin, directed by Raoul Peck and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.
I don’t know if excited is the correct term to use for the anticipation I felt leading up to this movie even before being released in US, but I was excited. Whenever there is black empowerment or a chance to educate myself about black history… I feel excited and open-minded.
I am no film critic but when I left the cinema yesterday, I couldn’t help but feel a wave of disappointment. Hear me out though because I think even if you really appreciated and enjoyed the film (again enjoy is a strange word to use for such a heavy and dark piece of cinema), it undeniably came across as questionable.
Since watching the film I have been reading reviews left right and centre to gauge other opinions. During my hunt for other interpretations and emotions to the film, I can across this review by Simran Hans of the Guardian (a UK news source): ‘I Am Not Your Negro review – thrilling James Baldwin documentary’. He rated the film 4 stars out of 5 ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️. I really resonated with this paragraph in particular:
The film is at its strongest showing Baldwin as both critic and memoirist; maintaining a tone of conversational tenderness and moving seamlessly between analysis and personal essay. Interspersed with footage of Baldwin himself, it’s thrilling to watch him speak his own words. Yet this is perhaps the film’s main problem. It’s a good thing that Peck reveres Baldwin’s words enough to let them do the work, but a more interesting documentary might have tried to complicate or contextualise them. Still, this is an excellent primer for those less familiar with Baldwin.
I couldn’t have put it better myself. I think that the documentary quite obviously skims over some of the subjects that could have given it depth. The documentary however – as Hans stated – an excellent foundation for the workings of James Baldwin.
I would 100% recommend giving this film a watch if you have the opportunity. Anyone who is interested in black American history without a foundation or with a loose understanding, would be enlightened and encouraged to delve further into their interests. Although there are areas that could be further explored I think this documentary offers an uncensored (in certain topics) and eye-opening insight into black American history.
The next two films I have on my watch list are:
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