With unprecedented access to James Baldwin’s original work, Raoul Peck completed a documentary film version of the novel Baldwin never finished—a radical narration about race in America that tracks the lives and assassinations of Baldwin’s friends Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers.
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More than simply weaving together Baldwin’s thoughts in an incisive, poetic way, what makes Peck’s film truly remarkable is how it repeatedly connects the writer’s thoughts not just to the present but to all of American history and its visual culture.
March 31, 2017
A densely-layered work, weaving through multiple layers of history and personal experience, and the cinéaste makes ample use of fascinating archival footage showing Baldwin’s incendiary interventions in American television in the 1960s and 1970s. For me, however, the most stimulating aspect of the film centered on Baldwin’s recollections of being a young black boy voraciously watching classical Hollywood cinema in the 1930s…
Nothing breaks the spell cast by James Baldwin in Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro. One of the things that makes Peck’s documentary so intense as a portrait of Baldwin, the engaged black writer, is that there are no talking heads, no one else making judgments or telling anecdotes about him or what he did. This is his public self, yet somehow deeply personal.