Film Review: “I Am Not Your Negro”

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African-American novelist, poet and social critic James Baldwin began writing a manuscript for Remember This House, a book meant to be inspired by the lives and murder of his closest friends: civil-rights pioneers Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers. However, Baldwin only managed to write 30 pages before he passed away in 1987. Activist/filmmaker Raoul Peck attempts to pick up where Baldwin left off with I Am Not Your Negro, a masterful film that tremendous similarities between race relations during the Civil Rights Movement and modern America. 

Actor Samuel L. Jackson brings Baldwin’s words to life as he narrates from the incomplete manuscript with a hushed tone, which is unlike most of Jackson’s recent on-screen film performances. When Jackson is not narrating in the movie, Peck chooses to use archival footage of Baldwin whether it is from newsreels or talk shows like The Dick Cavett Show, feeling like he is speaking on behalf of his race and frustrated of the hatred that surrounds him. Peck adds another layer to the film when footage and pictures from the Ferguson Riots and the Black Lives Matters movement are injected with Baldwin’s powerful words.

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I Am Not Your Negro states a powerful yet sad message: when it comes to race relations, America has failed to evolve from where it was in the mid 1960s. When Baldwin says in the film, “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America…it is not a pretty story,” you can’t help to think that the words he wrote many decades ago still ring true today.

 

“I Am Not Your Negro” is now playing at O Cinema Wynwood and Regal South Beach 18.

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