James Baldwin was ahead of his time.
I was blessed to attend the Swiss premiere of Raoul Peck’s highly rated and Oscar-nominated cinematic documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” in Geneva. The event was part of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) which took place from the 10 to 19 March 2017. The highlight of the festival was definitely the screening of “I Am Not Your Negro” followed by a short Q&A session with the Director, himself, Mr. Raoul Peck.
Before screening the film, Raoul Peck, told us that this project was 10 years in the making. The film is shockingly timely considering the state of race relations in the Western world today. He wanted to go back to the fundamentals, shut down the noise of “fake news cycles”, loud opinions and ignorant politicians.
Raoul Peck decided to tackle the facts, especially the reality of being Black in a society where you are a minority. He based his film on James Baldwin’s unfinished book “Remember This House” where he was telling the story of race in the U.S. through the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcom X.
What James Baldwin was saying then, resonates all too well in 2017, and it’s disturbing to see how little we’ve achieved since, despite what we’re being told or chose to believe.
This thought-provoking film was very real, raw and deep. There’s no Hollywood happy ending or reconciliation, no kumbaya. The viewer is asked to face his responsibility, face his own racism and/or ignorance. This is not just a Black movie, this is a film for All Americans / Europeans to watch.
“What white people have to do is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place, because I’m not a nigger,” he said. “I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it… If I’m not a nigger and you invented him — you, the white people, invented him — then you’ve got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that, whether or not it’s able to ask that question.”
That was James Baldwin in 1963, with a cigarette in hand. America had not really listened then, will the World listen in 2017 and beyond?
I’m not going to spoil the film, I highly recommend anyone and everyone to watch it. I urge you to also learn more about James Baldwin and refresh your classics on Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Marcus Garvey, etc. I’m going to do that myself.
Click for more info on I Am Not Your Negro.
Raoul Peck recommends reading one of James Baldwin’s books: The Fire Next Time.
Got 1 hour? You can listen to this in-depth Raoul Peck interview on the Combat Jack show: