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Film Review: 2017 Best Doc Oscar Nominee ‘I Am Not Your Negro’

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CHICAGO – The terms that have been used to describe African Americans over the years …black, afro-americans, negro and worse… has always been what others had named them, the others that wanted to marginalize, categorize and group individuals into images of words. The documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” seeks to upend these generalizations and in turn, those words.

HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 4.5/5.0
Rating: 4.5/5.0

In an extraordinarily way into “those who deny the past are condemned to repeat it,” filmmaker Raoul Peck frames a historical piece of writing by author James Baldwin into the counter intuitiveness of race relations today. The film evokes a bit of sadness, because in 2017 there should be less divisiveness between black, white and other shades than when Baldwin plotted his literary vision in 1979, which itself was 16 years after the “I Have a Dream” speech. But in acknowledging this vital voice across time, we can realize that the evolutionary process of these relations are too slow, and our fellow citizens are too willing to demur to the racism and bigotry that is years beyond its expiration date.

In 1979, the prodigious African American author James Baldwin (“Go Tell it On the Mountain”) wrote a letter to his publisher, describing his next project, “Remember This House.” It was to be a tribute and social overview of three friends – Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. All three were different types of African American leaders, all three were murdered by gunfire.

Director Raoul Peck has taken this unfinished material, the contents of the letter and the 30 pages of the unfinished book (Baldwin died in 1987), and gives them context and life. Using the imagery of Baldwin’s lifetime, including the author’s appearances on various talk shows, plus the grainy black & white rerun of 1960s news footage and special reports (“The Negro and The American Promise”), Peck creates an “everything old is new again” thesis. 


“I Am Not Your Negro” opened nationwide on February 3rd. See local listings for theaters and showtimes. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. Based on the writings of James Baldwin. Directed by Raoul Peck. Rated “PG-13”

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “I Am Not Your Negro”

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James Baldwin (in sunglasses) is the Voice of ‘I Am Not Your Negro’
Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

StarContinue reading for Patrick McDonald’s full review of “I Am Not Your Negro”

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