Just came from seeing I Am Not Your Negro… Feeling simultaneously inspired and depressed, moved and immobilized, and wondering what more I can be doing to facilitate the kinds of discussions James Baldwin was talking about, where we as Americans look at ourselves and our history – not as separate histories of different groups of people, but as a collective history, taking the blame for all of it, acknowledging the pain and suffering we’ve inflicted and/or benefited from, and really looking for ways to become different people.
The film is based on an unfinished work Baldwin had been writing, structured around the significance of three leaders: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s an essay documentary, not a conveniently digestible narrative-arc type of film, and as such it gets at the larger truths and deeper connections within Baldwin’s work decades ago, but visually and contextually intrinsically connected to the events of the current decade. Baldwin wrote and spoke about the intricacies of race relations in America not as a “race issue” or a “Black issue” or even as a “white issue,” but rather as an issue of immense importance for the entire American population – THE issue in America then, and sadly, now.
Even the inclusion of clips from Baldwin on the Dick Cavett Show were revealing in that they showcased a talk show that actually had guests with ideas that mattered, not just movies to sell or gossip to relate. I think this is required viewing for all Americans. It’s sad that as a documentary, it too will be marginalized, but please spread the word and see it wherever you can. I drop 35 miles today to go see it and I don’t regret one second of that.
[I apologize for this brief review. This film deserves a much longer look, which I hope to give it in the future, but in the interest of getting the word out now, I post these thoughts for you.]