Crowd gathering at the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington.
Crowd gathering at the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington. Magnolia Pictures

An ingeniously constructed documentary about one of the 20th century’s greatest, and more conflicted, artist/polemicists, I Am Not Your Negro is built from the proposal for Remember This House, the book James Baldwin never finished. As Samuel Jackson’s voice-over mingles with archival footage of Baldwin laying waste to his intellectual opposition on TV—and by the way, let’s pause for a moment to consider a time when a figure as radically attuned, and as volcanically erudite, and as sexually nonconforming as James Baldwin could have appeared regularly on network television—director Raoul Peck conveys the sense of a writer who has come to understand an idea that is bigger than he has the mortal strength to convey, which would almost make the film a tragedy within the context of the larger systemic tragedy its subject yearned to articulate. But even a glimpse of Baldwin’s prose is such a feast for mind, body, and soul that a film like I Am Not Your Negro can only be received with joy, humility, and deepest admiration.

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Check out a short featurette about the film and the original trailer below.

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