North Texas Daily

The Dose: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ is a strong start for Denton Black Film Festival

The Dose: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ is a strong start for Denton Black Film Festival

The Dose: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ is a strong start for Denton Black Film Festival
January 27
14:29 2017

Abby Jones | Staff Writer

“I Am Not Your Negro” breathes life into the memoir “Remember This House” by renowned African-American author James Baldwin, which he only wrote 30 pages of before his death. Director Raoul Peck essentially completes Baldwin’s manuscript in a documentary format by transporting his audience into the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

It was the opening film of the third annual Denton Black Film Festival. Its sold-out double screening on Jan. 26 at Silver Cinemas in the Golden Triangle Mall was the first ever showing in Texas. For anyone lucky enough to have attended, it should be no surprise that it snagged a nomination for Best Documentary at the upcoming Academy Awards.

The screening was preceded by brief speeches from Denton mayor Chris Watts and UNT English professor Laila Amine, who both commended the festival’s inclusion of black culture and noted their excitement for seeing Baldwin’s story on the big screen. UNT theater senior Elliot Sims also stood at the microphone with an emotionally packed performance of a monologue from one of Baldwin’s plays, “The Amen Corner.”

“[Baldwin] is one of the most influential writers of the 20th century,” Amine told the audience.

Samuel L. Jackson serves as the voice of James Baldwin in “I Am Not Your Negro.” Narrated from his point of view, the film animated Baldwin’s memories and reflections of civil rights activists Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as U.S. race relations at the time.

The audience relived Baldwin’s historic debate with William F. Buckley, Baldwin’s interview on “The Dick Cavett Show” and the moment Robert F. Kennedy announced Martin Luther King Jr.’s murder to the country. The audience gets to know Baldwin on a melancholic, personal level after the assassinations of Evers, Malcolm X and King, all of whom were younger than Baldwin at their times of death.

Some footage in the film can be difficult to stomach. Peck uses Baldwin’s narrative in conjunction with this footage to make powerful statements about police brutality towards the black community. The audience is shown archived evidence of riots in Birmingham, Selma and beyond.

Peck seamlessly ties in the matters of the ‘60s with recent events like the Ferguson riots of 2014. Peck merges the intolerance and injustice of the civil rights era with the successes and downfalls still present today. He affectively highlights the progress American society has made on the road to equality, but emphasizes that there is still a long way to go.

“I Am Not Your Negro” is an inspiring, empathy-evoking documentary for curious minds. Baldwin’s intimate recounts of the Civil Rights Movement — and Peck’s adaptation of them — teach viewers a facet of the era from a truly unique perspective in a way that textbooks can’t.

The film encourages audience members to fight for equality and remember those who started the fight. A gear-turner, conversation-starter and to some, even a tearjerker, “I Am Not Your Negro” will likely become an Academy Award winner and a staple in African-American film culture for years to come.

“I Am Not Your Negro” can be seen in theaters everywhere February 3.

Featured Illustration: James Baldwin standing in Hyde Park, London. | Allan Warren

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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2 Comments

  1. Jim
    Jim January 27, 20:32

    This is a truly great film. If you can see it, do so. The questions it asks are ones you must hear, especially now!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Todd Elliott Koger
    Todd Elliott Koger January 28, 11:40

    When will someone finally speak up, his senior staff SUCKS!!! As an entity they are failing him in the same manner that they troubled his campaign. There are just too many issues and unnecessary problems that have no place in the execution of what Donald Trump is trying to do. They have one responsibility, to protect the president from those things that threaten to sabotage his administration. It’s a science and the “high-paid” scientists are not doing their job. We have neither the time nor reason to entertain anymore of this amateurism. Do your job. Because there are unemployed individuals in the inner city who can’t keep bailing you out . . . .

    Omarosa Manigault was a guest on “The View” yesterday. She defended President Donald Trump using verbatim “point-helping” words that were shared in August 2016. There’s no excuse for being a leech, moocher, and/or freeloader. But those working for the President have been using the ideas and ideals, methodology and analysis, of Todd Elliott Koger without giving credit. The media is aware of this but doesn’t report it, as to “downplay” the African American departure from the Democratic Party in 2016 and the black community’s contribution to Trump’s unexpected victory.

    Reply to this comment

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