James Baldwin began a book called "Remember This House" but died before completing it. It intended to weave together the stories of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers into a tapestry of the black American experience. In "I Am Not Your Negro," Samuel L. Jackson reads the finished portion of the manuscript, and filmmaker Raoul Peck sets the words to images from the Civil Rights Movement and the current Black Lives Matter movement. The result is a bracing and deservedly angry film that captures better than anything I've read or seen yet the reasons behind the frustration and outrage of American blacks.
There's a marvelous moment in the film when a philosophy professor challenges Baldwin on the Dick Cavett Show for his attitudes, and basically holds Baldwin (and by extension black people) responsible for the continuing racial divide. His message seems to be "you're the one making an issue out of this, not me." Baldwin's take down of him in eloquent words that I won't even begin to try to replicate captures the essence of the entire film and the black struggle for equality.
And Baldwin's criticism doesn't stop at racial issues. He also denounces American popular and material culture in general, accusing Americans of letting consumerism anesthetize them into a false sense of happiness and contentment that allows them to ignore all that is wrong with the American way of life.
This is a movie that made me furious at America for continuing to stick its head up its ass when it comes to the subject of race. Watching Baldwin's heartfelt distress over the Civil Rights Movement juxtaposed to recent images from the news made it crystal clear that America has not progressed as much as it would like to think it has.
I Am Not Your Negro
I Am Not Your Negro
In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, "Remember This House." The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and 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 30 completed pages of this manuscript. Filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished.
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February 15, 2018 at 02:47 AM