Film review: I Am Not Your Negro


I want to preface this by saying that I am fully aware that I am writing this from a point of privilege given that I am a white, Scottish female with the only knowledge about where my roots lie is with my Irish grandparents.
So given the many times that tears were brought to my eyes while I watched this documentary, they felt somewhat misplaced.
The fight and the struggle shown in the film was not and never was the struggle of my ancestors, to my knowledge.
However –  the film was able to masterfully blend snippets of the author James Baldwin’s speeches from years past, the spoken word of his unfinished manuscript read by Samuel L. Jackson.
Alongside this, are carefully chosen clips of how black characters were portrayed in film and television, as well as flashes of the painstaking, gut wrenching reality of how the tense race relations of the segregation-era are STILL prevalent today in modern America.

Screened for free as part of the Glitch Film Festival, the film is split into different segments of which Baldwin’s manuscript explores different elements of black identity.
There is a clear and beautifully crafted way whereby the film includes and focuses in on faces of some named or nameless people in history – either as bystanders or those at the front of pivotal points in history.
This aspect was incredibly moving, as it highlighted that mass movements, ones that are so important and crucial and worthy as the struggle against segregation to #BlackLivesMatter are rooted in the individual and their choice to fight for what is right.
While the film is broad, it does not overstretch itself, but instead masterfully covers each issue raised with dignity and fervour.
Baldwin concentrates on three men whose name share the same initial letter, Megdar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X.
The way of which he speaks as he hears the news of their murders is haunting, and the clips that then follow make you feel like you had also been alive day to hear the news three times over – and it feels as horrific and as world altering as I’m sure it did all those years ago.
I think like many of the young, liberal students like myself in the audience knew the names of these men but not their stories or the extent of their importance or impact.
I myself am a student of English literature and felt great shame that I was not as familiar with James Baldwin as I feel now like I should have been.
His intellect, his conversations and the way of which he carried himself are incredibly inspirational and I urge everyone I know to watch this film and source out his materials to expand your worldview, the way that mine did on a Saturday afternoon in Glasgow’s CCA.
This was originally published in the Strathclyde Telegraph on April 8th, 2017.

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