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Tag Archives: Oscar
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.
By Ken Simmons
“Everyone deserves not just to survive but to live,” the British director Steve McQueen said in accepting the best picture award last night at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. “This is the most important legacy of Solomon Northup. I dedicate this award to all the people who have endured slavery.”
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Lupita Nyong’o, the Kenyan actress who made her feature film debut in “12 Years A Slave” as the much-abused slave Patsey also won the best actress in a supporting role.
Solomon Northup’s Autobiography
McQueen explained how he came up with the idea of making this film. After meeting at a Creative artists agency screening of Hunger in 2008, McQueen got in touch with screenwriter John Ridley about his interest in making a film about “the slave era in America” with “a character that was not so obvious in terms of their trade in slavery.”
Developing the idea back and forth, the two did not strike a chord until McQueen’s wife found Solomon Northup’s 1853 autobiography Twelve Years a Slave. “I read this book, and I was totally stunned,” said McQueen. “At the same time I was pretty upset with myself that I didn’t know this book, a firsthand account of slavery.” I basically made it my passion to make this book into a film.”