Given the posthumous approach taken by the film’s director Raoul Peck, identifying the style of film “I am not Your Negro” is a bit difficult. The film is a documentary, a biography, and an essay based on letters and notes written by James Baldwin in the mid-1970s while working on a book about the lives and deaths of famous black figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers, and Malcolm X. In the sense that it captures historical events as narrated by Baldwin’s letters and notes, it is a documentary. It could also be called a biography as it is a story about Baldwin’s life, work, and death as well as those of Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther. Lastly, it could be argued to be an essay film focused on the last sixty years half of which Baldwin had been an authoritative voice for the rising of the African-American consciousness.
Raoul Pecks movie pictures Baldwin as a critic and a memoirist. It maintains a tone of conversational tenderness that moves seamlessly between the personal essay and analysis. Interspersed with footage of Baldwin, the film makes it thrilling to watch him as he voiced his opinions on the status of African-Americans both as deserving citizens of the United States, but also a population facing discrimination and segregation from the same country they pledge loyalty and allegiance. However, this could be a source of the movies criticism. Although the director reveres Baldwins words to capture the audience, he could have also attempted to complicate or contextualize the theme. Apart from this, it is a remarkable, bold, and gripping movie that I would recommend to others.
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