Friday, January 4, 2019

I Am Not Your Negro (2016)

based on the words of James Baldwin
directed by Raoul Peck

This is based on a book that James Baldwin wanted to write about Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. Baldwin wrote a 30 page piece for the planned book but that is as far as he got.

The story is told through a number of mediums. There are clips of movies from various times in the past. Most of them seem to be from the 1930s to the 1960s. There are clips of James Baldwin talking on film and television. There is a narrator (Samuel L. Jackson) who reads what I presume to be passages of what Baldwin wrote. There are clips of video from the present from events like the protests in Ferguson, MO.

Baldwin tells stories that are read by the narrator. He talks of hearing about the murder of Medgar Evers. He recounts a meeting with Bobby Kennedy at which Larraine Hansberry was also present, a meeting which happened just before she died. He tells about the night he heard about the murder of Malcolm X.

What's the movie about? How would I describe the movie? Well, I just described it in part. I wish I could be more succinct about it. It is eluding me but in a way it seems to be about frustration, Baldwin's frustration. I am sure that Baldwin isn't the only one frustrated but he's the one whose words are being read.

There were times when I found the images to not work well with the words that were being read or spoken. Maybe that was done on purpose. Maybe that was a way to show frustration. That seems like a fairly concrete expression of frustration.

I'm not sure if this is really a documentary but for the purposes of this blog that's how I am going to classify it. It is definitely non-fiction.

This isn't a long movie, just over 90 minutes long. It seems to be subdivided into a few pieces. I considered stopping and watching the rest later, but once I got into it I wanted to stick with it. I'm glad I watched it. I could see watching it again. It is the sort of movie that gave me a lot to absorb and I'm sure I missed things, things I might notice if I watched it again.

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