TIFF 2023: Our Review of ‘Stamped from the Beginning’

Posted in TIFF 2023 by - September 10, 2023
TIFF 2023: Our Review of ‘Stamped from the Beginning’

Roger Ross Williams tackles his share of pop culture documentaries. but the only film I saw of his is God Loves Uganda. That doc is more macro and conflict heavy in comparison to other other homophobia in Uganda doc Call Me Kuchu. Almost a decade later, he’s back, using documentaries to fight another good fight with Stamped from the Beginning. He adapts the Ibrahim X. Kendi book with the same name. Together, with other interviewees, they tackle Eurocentric history and its anti-Black racism.

Some names here will seem familiar – for example, I already knew that Abraham Lincoln wasn’t the hero that everyone thinks he was. But other names seem like echoes of ones I already knew about. I know about Bartolome de las Casas who advocated the use of Africans as slaves, but I didn’t know about Gomes de Zurara who wrote about Africans in a similar fashion. I know about the accusations that Harriet Jacobs had a white abolitionist ghostwriter, but not about Phyllis Wheatley.

Williams throws out images and names of historical and current figures who propagate anti-Black rhetoric. No one is safe, except maybe Beyonce. His use of art and views on depictions of Black sexuality may prompt some discourse. A film like this expectedly comes from a place of righteous outrage, from a perspective and experience where suffering is prevalent. Thankfully, this beautiful film ends with hope, a place where all races can be free from forms of brutality.


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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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