"The future of the negro in this country is precisely as bright or as dark as the future of the country." This provocative statement by black activist James Baldwin may, on the surface, sound reductive but his stance is unflinching and he unapologetically uses black lives as the benchmark of America's success as a nation ... and in Baldwin's words, "It is not a pretty story."
In 1979 Baldwin penned the beginnings of a manuscript called "Remember this House". Director Raoul Peck has taken these pages and created a documentary that is a stimulating rendition of Baldwin's seminal work.
I Am Not Your Negro is an important film, not just as a document of America's chequered racial history but also as a warning to the world about the fragility of cultural difference. It shrewdly illustrates the historical treatment of America's black community in order to access deeper fundamental problems within America, and indeed the Western civilisation.
Just as Al Gore has used climate change to illustrate our problems with materialism, similarly Baldwin, through the lens of Peck, uses a racist America to illustrate our fundamental inability to embrace cultural difference and commonality.
Peck tells Baldwin's story with a chaptered structure and an evocative use of imagery, seamlessly traversing decades of footage and splicing in recent events to remind you that this is still a problem.
An intoxicating and provocative film that certainly gets you thinking.
Cast: James Baldwin
Director: Raoul Peck
Running time: 95 mins
Verdict: An intoxicating and provocative doco
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