Tracker Pixel for Entry

​James Baldwin immortal: “I Am Not Your Negro”

by Greg Carlson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Cinema | March 8th, 2017

In Raoul Peck’s monumental documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” one of the best moments – and there are several dozen from which to choose – comes courtesy of a clip from the 74th episode from the first season of “The Dick Cavett Show.”

Originally aired June 13, 1968, the broadcast included an intellectual joust between James Baldwin and the Yale philosopher Paul Weiss. After listening to a ponderous, condescending, and clueless Weiss counter his initial comments, Baldwin takes his knives out and delivers an excoriating rebuttal that, nearly half a century later, inspires applause in a full movie theater.

It would certainly not be lost on Peck, who earned a degree from the German Film and Television Academy Berlin, that “Weiss” translates to “white” or “knowing.”

Peck, a filmmaker and political activist who served as Haiti’s Minister of Culture in 1996 and 1997, explained in a “Los Angeles Times” interview with Tre’vell Anderson that, against the odds, he was granted “unprecedented access to the entire [Baldwin] estate.”

Baldwin’s sister Gloria Karefa-Smart shared with Peck a 30-page collection of notes for Baldwin’s unfinished “Remember This House,” in which the writer planned to explore race through an examination of his personal relationships with Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Medgar Evers.

Using that triptych structure as the basis for his film, Peck lets Baldwin, and Baldwin alone, take us by the hand. Baldwin’s thoughts are by turns intimate and reflective, urgent and revelatory. A. O. Scott wrote of the film, “It doesn’t just make you aware of Baldwin, or hold him up as a figure to be admired from a distance. You feel entirely in his presence, hanging on his every word, following the implications of his ideas as they travel from his experience to yours.”

Read with gravitas by Samuel L. Jackson, Baldwin’s text serves as an auditory accompaniment to the often uplifting, often devastating pictures that Peck has selected. No additional narration, no talking heads, and no explanations are necessary.

As a Virgil-like guide, Baldwin counsels that America is more Inferno than Paradiso, despite the sophistication of the illusions being bought and sold. Peck samples movies familiar (“King Kong”) and less familiar (“They Won’t Forget”). He suggests, via the garish hues of WarnerColor, that a seemingly innocuous fantasy like “The Pajama Game” conceals a wolf in sheep’s sleepwear. And that black and white readings of “The Defiant Ones” don’t reconcile. And that “In the Heat of the Night” could show a kiss even if we don’t see lips touch lips.

Peck’s prodigious gift for juxtaposition is simply astonishing. In addition to the Hollywood films, he remixes a devastating hurricane made up of archival clips and images detailing 20th century American popular culture, social upheaval, civil rights, and history, combining it all with a freshness that has the effect of making you believe you are seeing all these things for the first time.

And when the director shifts the viewpoint from Baldwin’s lifetime to more recent scenes from Ferguson, Missouri following the killing of Michael Brown, and also to an infuriating roll call of several others who died at the hands of the police, it is not hard to imagine Baldwin alive, speaking truth to power today and tomorrow.  

Recently in:

FARGO– A legislator, hopeful politicians, and business owners appealed to the governor’s office Monday morning with hopes of an executive order to fight the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of Net Neutrality.The…

Last week we talked about my lack of photographic skills and then what the heck am I going to do with all of these bad pictures that I take. Storage options for those pictures continues this week:RAIDAnother storage option is a…

Wednesday, April 25, 9pm-howlingThe Aquarium, 226 Broadway, FargoYou may have heard their sick beats on 95.9 lpfm on Friday's from 5pm-midnight. Now you can dance your pants off in the presence of the minds behind ”The Riverside…

According to Greek mythology Hades is to blame for the Earth’s mournful state of winter. The story involves Persephone the goddess of nature and Hades the god of the underworld in a classic caper of obsession, abduction, and…

Does That Old-Time Religion Signal The End Of Rational Thought?An incident about gender identity in the Maryland Legislature last week magnified a microcosm of what we are going through in the United States about religion in the…

FARGO - A collection of memories from High Plains Reader's annual Cocktail Showdown. Participants were judged on creativity, flavor, and presentation; and this year we added a new category. Like years before, each establishment was…

All About Food

​Oysters

by HPR Staff

By Ben Myhrebenmyhre35@gmail.comAs a North Dakota native, raw oysters are just not a food staple that I think about. We are about as far from the coasts as we can get and we have a backyard full of tasty local cuisine, like walleye…

Record Store Day is all about music artists and fans celebrating “the culture of the independently owned record store.” A variety of unique and special releases are pressed for Record Store Day and those are only distributed to…

Leveraging whatever name-brand clout it might carry with the target demographic, “Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare” -- the onscreen title for the pre and post-credit sequences -- won’t make the kind of impact previously enjoyed by…

There are so many cool places to be in Austin during the South by Southwest Festival -- like the Flatstock Market, which displays the works of the world’s top gig poster artists. The show features posters of varying styles,…

By Nathan Roybardsdream@gmail.comYou are absolutely right. The title is not “To be or not to be” from the famous Shakespeare soliloquy in "Hamlet." I won’t be talking about Shakespeare particularly. I will expound the…

Fargo has its share of people who are passionate about stand-up comedy, even if the success of clubs devoted to it has been mixed. Despite the fact we have seen places like Courtney’s Comedy Club and Level 2 Comedy Club close…

I consider myself an avid wine drinker, but I recently found out there are more than 10,000 varieties of grapes, and about 1,500 of those are used to make commercial wines. I don’t know about you, but I could probably name about…

A few months ago, I was introduced to the concept of probiotics and how they work with our bodies. I would never have guessed the change that occurred after their introduction into my system.I always considered myself a fairly…

By Melissa Martin melissamartincounselor@live.com “I’m sorry” are two vital words to be used in relationships because human beings are imperfect people living in imperfect environments. Ask yourself the following…

Calm was the day in late JulyAnd bright was the sun across the skyBut inside his chest the calm had brokenGovernor Sinner had started croakin’.I laughed the first time I read that, and I’m still laughing every time I think…