A Call To Humanity: Our Review of ‘I Am Not Your Negro’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - February 22, 2017
A Call To Humanity: Our Review of ‘I Am Not Your Negro’

“The story of the Negro in America, is the story of America…and it’s NOT a pretty story”

Straight from the lips of novelist and social critic James Baldwin himself, these words from his unfinished manuscript that make up the body of director Raoul Peck’s stunning and powerful documentary I Am Not Your Negro ask all the right question’s not only about the life of a man like James Baldwin but in the lives that we have all been living…and the questions that need to be asked of us all to really make this world a better place.

It’s the envisioning of a book that was never finished.  Director Raoul Peck dives into a radical narration about race in America using the words from the man himself.  He draws upon James Baldwin’s notes on the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr to explore and bring a fresh and radical perspective to the current racial narrative in America.

The words, ‘Must see’, ‘Seminal’, ‘Vital’ and a plethora of other adjectives often get thrown about far more often than they really should in this business but with I Am Not Your Negro the hyperbole actually doesn’t do this cinematic experience the justice that it really should.

The resonance and the urgency of Baldwin’s words speak so loudly now that is just too hard to ignore.  Through archival footage, clips of Baldwin himself and an inspired narration from the one Samuel L Jackson this is such a necessary and haunting experience that it will floor almost anyone who sits down and watches it.  Baldwin’s words paint a harrowing and sadly accurate depiction of the life of the African American man in America and no matter when he wrote these words, things really haven’t changed all that much.  Baldwin’s words spark us to finally ask the right question to a society and a social structure that drives its power from creating division at every turn.  It’s these divisions that truly kill us, Baldwin knew it and every social activist has know it through the course of time, but we’ve never learned from our mistakes and Peck turns this into such a scathing social commentary that we just can’t help but listen.  Tightly written and poignant, Peck makes the dissatisfaction of an entire race of people jump off the screen reminding us all that there has never been and never was a reason for the white man to treat the black man differently throughout the course of human history, it was just done because they could. 

Peck has this entire narrative dripping in the most enraged logic that has ever been seen in documentary film, it doesn’t need to hit us over the head with the points that it is making because it is just so damn obvious and even a little insulting that Peck as a filmmaker needed to go over all this in the first place.  This film is a wake call for the rest of modern society, it’s time we drop the labels of race, religion, political affiliation and anything else in between so that we can all be treated the way that we deserve to be treated…as human beings.

This post was written by
David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.