“I Am Not Your Negro”: sneak preview at a Washington DC high school this evening
“I Am Not Your Negro” was previewed tonight at Ballou High School (sponsored by AFI Docs) in Washington DC before a full auditorium, three levels. The film is based on the unfinished book “Remember This House” by James Baldwin, based on Badlwin’s account of his interaction with Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King.
The film is directed by Haitian born Raoul Peck, who was present for the QA with an assistant principal of the high school. The evening felt like a reprise of my own days as a substitute teacher ten years ago. The principal said that 92% of the senior class, mostly African-American, has been accepted to college.
The film is narrated by actor Samuel L. Jackson, with the script entirely taken from the writings of Baldwin. Peck said that he had to produce the film himself and control it, and making it took ten years. He did raise some money from European sources, especially in Belgium.
The film takes on the mantra, “white is a metaphor for power”, and shows how, from the late 1940s until the 60s, white people really had benefited from the sacrifices of blacks – with the lingering segregation and combative attitudes – without taking moral responsibility. During the QA, the need for personal involvement and then trend toward personal apathy by most “successful” whites was mentioned. The film is viewed as timey given Trump and Bannon, but their names weren’t mentioned.
The film shows a great deal of the civil rights activism, especially revolving around desegregation orders and then the Selma march, leading to the deaths of the civil rights leaders. There were many scenes of riots and police activity, with some modern scenes of the Ferguson, MO riots. The deaths of young black men (such as Treyvon Martin) gets covered. There was one metaphorical scene shot with images from the surface of Mars.
The film also covered Baldwin’s time in Paris, and mentioned (showing typing of memos) J. Edgar Hoover’s view of him as a security risk and a “homosexual” (as Hoover was covering up for himself). Baldwin says he came back to the US “to pay my dues”, a favorite moral catch phrase of mine.
The film has excerpts of many other films, including “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “In the Heat of the Night“, as well as “The Pajama Game” (white values), and even Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant” (2003, a school shooting by disenchanted, perhaps bullied white boys, somewhat similar to Columbine.)
Name: “I Am Not Your Negro“
Director, writer: Raoul Peck, James Baldwin (book manuscript “Remember This House“)
Format: 1.85:1 sometimes black and white
When and how viewed: Ballou High School Washington DC AFI Screening, opens at Landmark E St. Feb. 3
Companies: Amazon Studios, Velvet Film, Magnolia Pictures
During the QA I mentioned Gode Davis’s unfinished “American Lynching“. This new film seems to have at least one image in common.
On the way on the Green Line in rush hour, I was the only white person on a crowded Metro car toward SE Washington and the Congress Heights station on Alabama Ave (one mile from the school). Residual de facto segregation by economics is all too real. There were a number of white college students at the reception before.
QA Video Clips By Me
(Posted: Wednesday, February 1, 2017 at 11:45 PM)