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Read: I Am Not Your Negro

If there is one documentary that you need to see this year, it is  I Am Not Your Negro.  It isn’t a perfect film, but it will make you sad and angry and possibly speechless for a while, but you will definitely talk about it afterwards.

It poignantly illustrates the ugly rotten core of racism that was at the centre of the founding of the United States of America and which still festers and pollutes the country to this day.

The film is based on Remember this House, an unfinished manuscript by James Baldwin, a black American writer and social critic who died in 1987. Narrated superbly by Samuel L. Jackson the film explores the reminiscences of Baldwin during the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s and the murders of his friends and civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Medgar Evans.

At times, Baldwin’s narrative veers between razor sharp cogency and confusing diatribe, but his searing condemnation of the supposed American Dream and the brutality and violence at the heart of American society makes for compelling and disturbing viewing.

It is not easy to see the sickening narrow-mindedness and inhumanity meted out to Black Americans for over 400 years and to be reminded that this behaviour is still continuing. But this is no ‘anti-white’ film. Baldwin himself stated clearly that he never hated white people and that injustice and self-imposed segregation within Black communities exists.

It is only by recognising our own humanity and the commonality between people, irrespective of the colour of their skin, that we can move beyond the violence and hatred.

One should not be put off by the themes and very disturbing images in this film, it is a powerful, thought provoking exploration of humanity that we should all see. It ends with images of Black people living in America right now, they are standing alone or in groups and all staring at the screen. Some are sad faces, some are proud, but they all look strong and beautiful. It is the perfect ending to a film about division and separation – we can all recognise ourselves in those faces, even if we have a different colour of skin.

I Am Not Your Negro

93 minutes

Narrated by: Samuel L. Jackson

Directed by: Raoul Peck

In cinemas 21st September 2017

 

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