Somewhat deep into the searing and utterly necessary documentary “I Am Not Your Negro ,” director Raoul Peck overlays audio from a 1960 U.S. Government film “The Land We Love,” in which the narrator extols the virtues of America and the freedoms afforded all citizens, with images from the 1965 Watts Riots. While the juxtaposition might not be a revolutionary technique to convey incongruities, in this film it captures the sum of the essential American hypocrisy: Black people suffer while the white people play.
Peck’s restraint to build to and save that gut punch for a moment when he’s certain the audience can comprehend not just the images but the ideas behind it, is a testament to the studied excellence of the film. It is not only a must see, but one that should be studied and absorbed over many viewings.
I Am Not Your Negro” is inspired and informed by “Remember This House,” an unfinished manuscript by James Baldwin in which he aspired to tell the story of America through the death of three friends — Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Baldwin had written only 30 pages before his own death in 1987.
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