‘I Am Not Your Negro’: 2017 Top Grossing Indie | Film News
“History is not the past”, stated Baldwin, “It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history”.
With current gross of $6,076,416 (US release on February 3), Raoul Peck‘s I Am Not Your Negro is now one of the highest grossing specialty indies of 2017 along side The Salesman and A United Kingdom.
I Am Not Your Negro is a powerful and emotional film about the life of the author, poet and Civil Rights activist, James Baldwin. A very productive year for civil rights’ documentaries which also include Ava DuVernay‘s 13th and Ezra Edelman‘s O.J.: Made in America, all nominated for best documentary at this year’s Academy Awards.
In 1963, a TIME cover referred to Baldwin and stated “in the U.S. today there is not another writer — white or black — who expresses with such poignancy and abrasiveness the dark realities of the racial ferment in North and South”.
I Am Not Your Negro is not your typical biographical documentary. Peck chose to base his film on an unfinished manuscript by Baldwin.
In 1979, Baldwin proposed a book to his agent, called Remember This House, about his relationships with civil right leaders Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. What these three leaders had in common, was not the color of their skin but the fact that they were deemed “dangerous” and “disposable” to the white population or “moral monsters” as Baldwin likes to call them.
At the center of the film lies the question of racism or the “The Negro Problem”. “Why it was necessary to have a n*gger in the first place?” asks Baldwin at the start of the film.
Peck illustrates the poet’s writing and speeches with archival images as well as modern-day footage from Ferguson, Mo., and the Black Lives Matter movement and cut them with violent images of American protests from 1960s to the 2014 conflicts in Ferguson, Missouri, delivering a true sense of timelessness.
Using only Baldwin’s words and through the soothing voice of Samuel L. Jackson, Peck gives a sincere look inside the mind of one of America’s top mid-20th century men of letters and explores how racism, identity and collective denial slowly merged to create a divided American culture, still very much relevant today.
In an interview with the American Film Institute, Peck explained: “It seems politically urgent to put Baldwin’s word ‘in the streets,’ as he would have personally done, and make sure that these words were uncensored, unapologetic, direct and raw. He was to be the message; I just wanted to be the messenger”.
Raoul Peck tackles another influential figure in his next project, the feature film, The Young Karl Marx, starring August Diehl and Olivier Gourmet, set to be released this month.
I Am Not Your Negro premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last September and went on to screen around the globe in New York, Los Angeles, Berlin and Brazil. It is set to be released in the UK on April 7.
“Because I’m not a n*gger. I am a man. But if you think I’m a n*gger, it means you need it and you got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that”.
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