I Am Not Your Negro topped Flavorwire’s list of the best documentaries this year, with our Film Editor Jason Bailey calling it “the year’s most essential movie, and its best – documentary or no,” while also noting that that “seems a strange thing to say about a movie written in the 1980s, predominately about the 1960s. But here we are.” A trailer for the film, which is out on February 3 via Magnolia Pictures, was just released.
The film’s narration is all text from Baldwin’s unfinished memoir manuscript (30 pages of which were written before he died in 1987), Remember This House, and reflects on his own memories of the lives of assassinated civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther King Jr., emphasizing how the “story of the Negro in America is the story of America.”
It says a lot about this country that Baldwin’s words about oppression should resonate so much in the present — as opposed to speaking to merely historic pains. But this is a year where, instead of listening to protestations and interrogating the ways the country oppresses, people placed votes that’d make it more inhospitable to populations who’ve already been brutalized by the system, with a human embodiment of racism and economic imbalance Tweeting his way towards his January 20 inauguration as President.
Raoul Peck’s documentary makes an essayistic patchwork depicting America’s persistent violence, white ignorance, and systemic failure towards its black population, and the words and lives of the people who stand up against these things. As the trailer shows, it takes Baldwin’s words, spoken by Samuel L. Jackson, and interweaves them with interview and archival footage, alongside visions of today’s America.