In putting together “I Am Not Your Negro,” director Raoul Peck mined writer and social critic James Baldwin’s published and unpublished work, selecting passages from books, essays, letters, notes, and interviews that are every bit as incisive and pertinent today, as they have ever been. Weaving these texts together, Peck brilliantly imagines the book that Baldwin never wrote. In his final years, Baldwin had envisioned a book that was to be a revolutionary, personal account to be titled “Remember This House,” of his three assassinated friends, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. Peck’s film juxtaposes Baldwin’s previously unpublished private words with his public statements, in a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of the tragic history of race in America. It pulls still and moving images from a variety of sources to weave an immersive audiovisual tapestry. It’s a kaleidoscope, featuring a frantic and poetic medley, all in Baldwin’s very own style. The images punctuate the words and the music and vice versa. Collectively, the film redefines their meaning and impact. While not a primer for those unfamiliar with Baldwin, “Negro” a tribute to a project that Baldwin himself didn’t live to see completed. Samuel L. Jackson narrates the documentary.
At the time of his death in 1987, writer, poet and social critic James Baldwin had an unfinished manuscript entitled “Remember This House,” a memoir about his personal recollections of the lives and deaths of civil rights leaders Medgar Evans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Now, filmmaker Raoul Peck has mined the manuscript for his new documentary essay “I Am Not Your Negro” that explores race relations in the United States through Baldwin’s words. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the film prominently places Baldwin’s voice front and center as he conveys his thoughts and experiences of living as a marginalized figure in American society. Watch a trailer for the film below.
Since its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of last year, the film has wracked up numerous awards on the festival circuit. It won the People’s Choice Documentary Award at TIFF, the Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature at the Chicago International Film Festival and was recently awarded the Best Documentary prize by the Los Angeles Critics Association. It also placed third in the Best Documentary category in the IndieWire Critics Poll.