Directed by Raoul Peck
From 14th April 2017
Reviewed by Colin Serjent
Even as a young child the Watts Riots, that took place in Los Angeles in 1965, resonated with me. I asked myself what is that all about, policemen battering black people?
Seeing the news footage of that in this film cast me back to those times.
Then you watch news footage of the riots in Ferguson in America, which occurred in 2014, and you ask the inevitable question, has anything changed for the better for black people in America?
‘I Am Not Your Negro’ is based upon a partially written 30-page manuscript called ‘Remember This House’ by James Baldwin, in which he chronicled the stories of three leading civil rights leaders, who were all assassinated, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers . The latter was paid tribute to in a song by a young Bob Dylan, which was included in the film.
Samuel L. Jackson voiced the words penned by Baldwin, in the documentary, as well as the voice over.
It includes interviews by Baldwin, in which he speaks eloquently of the Black Struggle. It also includes newsreels and film clips, some dating back to the 1930s. One notable sequence was Baldwin voicing his views on black civil rights in a debate, titled ‘Has The American Dream Been Achieved At The Expense of The American Negro?’ held at Cambridge University in 1965. He was the only black person in the assembly room!
But absurdly official comments by the FBI about Baldwin’s character were typed out on screen together with the sound of typewriter keys being pressed.
It is well nigh impossible to include in a 95 minute documentary all of the major issues regarding discrimination against black people in America in the past 100 years or so. But it was amiss not to mention the hostility black troops received – some being murdered because of their colour – when returning to the USA at the end of WWII. After putting their lives on the line in defence of the country they lived in, they still had to sit at the end of a bus!