I Am Not Your Negro

Although it is now my third night in Wellington and there is much to report from the time I arrived to now, I am compelled to write about this documentary which I have just seen as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival (NZIFF).I had missed the film back home, so was very pleased to see that it was part of the festival, and I bought tickets online for it and four other films a couple of weeks before arriving in Wellington. It was screening at the Light House Cinema, Petone, in Lower Hutt, a $9 bus ride away from the YHA, and I planned the trip to arrive in good time.


Uncharacteristically I bought a glass of merlot (as I had presented myself with a choice between that and a sugary dessert), and rather than gulp it down I took it in with me. Although I was in the second row, it didn’t feel too close and the seats were comfortable and spacious.

A google search just now elicited the following, unattributed information, which summarises the first-person written introduction at the beginning of the film.

“In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, “Remember This House.” The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only 30 completed pages of this manuscript. Filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished.”

It might have been that I was anticipating what was to come, but the moment the introductory credits started rolling, I started crying, and I didn’t stop for the most of the film. It was one of the most gripping and absorbing films I have ever seen. Perhaps it helped that I was so close to the screen and that much of the archival footage zoomed in to show full-screen, much larger than life sized faces, but it wouldn’t have mattered where I was sitting. I believe that this film is purely and simply one of the most important films of our time, and everyone in the USA needs to see it. Everyone in Australia, in Britain, in Europe, et al – everyone who can needs to see it. Because until we face up to the inherent and ongoing racism that permeates our world, we will never be able to address the injustices and the inequality that it creates, and we will never achieve peace.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.                                                                                                                       James Baldwin



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