Oscar-nominated portrait of James Baldwin uses author’s words to bridge civil-rights past with our racially incendiary present
The history of America is the history of the Negro in America. And it’s not a pretty picture.” These words were written by James Baldwin, the African-American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and fierce social critic. When the man of letters died in 1987, he had finished only 30 pages of what would have been his magnum opus, Remember This House, consisting of tales torn from the lives and murders of three of Baldwin’s closest friends: the civil-rights pioneers Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr.
The book never happened, but the movie I Am Not Your Negro, directed by the Haiti-born filmmaker and activist Raoul Peck using Baldwin’s own words, is alive and kicking ass. Nominated for an Academy Award as the year’s best documentary, this chronicle of a long, hard (and ongoing) struggle will compete with two other probing docs about race in America – Ava DuVernay’s 13th and Ezra Edelman’s mammoth, seven-hour OJ: Made in America. Peck’s film stands tall even in that distinguished company. It’s unmissable and unforgettable.