I Am Not Your Negro – is a documentary on the US civil rights movement told through the elegant words of the writer and activist James Baldwin. It is a story that focuses on the tragic murders of his friends Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers in the 1960s. The forces that drove those men and many others to their deaths many years ago still plague contemporary US society and I saw many parallels to racial fears, discrimination and xenophobia in our own society in Australia . Baldwin’s words are mostly voiced powerfully by Samuel L. Jackson, but there is also some footage shown of Baldwin at his elegant and eloquent best addressing TV hosts and a UK university crowd with such passion and his great facility with the English language.
What constantly came over to me from this film was a theme of willing or even wilful ignorance (of the plight of black Americans) in US society. This message isn’t brutally delivered but it is shocking and deeply disturbing nonetheless.
The original news footage, archival images and even Hollywood movie clips are selected and edited together beautifully. They greatly illustrate James Baldwin’s words and maintain the momentum and chronology of his message.
This is a most important documentary in the age of Trump and in a world that is dominated by media and politician fuelled fears of anyone different from the “norm”. I am really glad that I selected and saw this brilliant film. Stunning. 4.5/5
I saw this at its premier in the Dendy Opera Quays. William was there as were many of those featured in the images like Kate Fitzpatrick and Jenny Kee. George Gittoes was there too representing those from the Yellow House years who could not attend (like Martin Sharp) and those who had passed like Brett Whiteley. I caught up with George after the film as we had spent some time together in Iraq a few years back. He told me he was just back from Afghanistan and introduced me to a friend who was curating an exhibition of his work from those years. So, back to the film …
It is a film that documents one of his live performances, in this case 10/11 “My Generation”. I saw this live in Carriage Works back in 2009 I think and I still love it. I really like the way he carefully provides just enough context for his photographs, preferring to let his images talk for him. William has documented a fascinating period of Australian cultural (and gay) history that features those named above as well as many other significant figures including Patrick White, Jimmy Sharman, Rex Cramphorn, Little Nell Campbell, Margaret Fink, and Linda Jackson. This film is a visual potted history of that part of Sydney in the 80s and 90s.
I think it is wonderful and I think it is also being broadcast on ABC TV on 16 June, so don’t miss it. If you’ve not seen one of his performances and can remember the 80s and 90s it will ring many bells.
5/5 because I loved it and I think William is a national treasure.