In June 1979 writer James Baldwin wrote a letter to his agent about a book he would never finish. 50 years later, his profound words would ring even truer in director Raoul Peck’s thought-provoking documentary.

Narrated by Samuel Jackson and in Baldwin’s own words, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ fuses the lives of three very different men (Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers) and how their deaths would shape the story of America ever since.

Using a mixture of narration, historical interviews, movie clips and newsreel footage, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ is a wake-up call that goes beyond reconciliation and targets both endemic fear and a country’s perpetuation of hostility. Slow and unwilling to honestly confront its own prosperity built on others’ blood, Baldwin’s words have much to say about America today, as it does of the past.

“They needed us to pick the cotton and now they don’t need us any more. (Now) they’re going to kill us off.” The combination of words like these, contrasting old newsreel footage with modern-day rioting in Ferguson, result in sobering perspectives sent from the past to the future. As Baldwin himself says, “It’s not a pretty story” – but it needs telling.

Unpublished during his lifetime, Baldwin’s words for his novel ‘Remember This House’ have found a new home in this compelling documentary. Exposing the shroud of white mythology thrown up by American culture, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ is an urgent, impactful and resonant analysis into how a country can sanitise atrocity whilst espousing decency.

Watch this movie and have the veil lifted. You might never quite see things the same way again.

Mark Esper

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