I Am Not Your Negro (Baldwin)

Do I give Raoul Peck – the director of the film and the one who put the script together – authorial credit? What about the editor?

I’ve seen the film and thought it was very powerful. I am going to see it again soon, so I thought I’d read this in order to be able to examine it with new eyes.

And I use the word ‘eyes’ deliberately. It was only when I was reading the script that I realized the extent of the motif of seeing and being seen, witnessing, reality vs. fantasy, etc.. Now this may be because Peck was making a movie, but I do think the motif is central to much of what I know about Baldwin. He saw things in ways that were new to many (and still are) and was therefore threatening. He saw it as his job to look, to see, to witness. This made it hard for him to stay in one place. There was, of course, France, but he is constantly talking about being “on the road,” but not being able to stay.

In the spirit of this motif and the fact that it’s a movie, Peck has selected several excerpts that deal with movies, with a particular focus on the roles of John Wayne and Sidney Poitier. Wayne, he says, never really had to grow up. Poitier, he seems to be suggesting, was guilty of a kind of appeasement (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, etc.).

Though there are a few introductory remarks (Peck, the film editor – Alexandra Strauss), but I was hoping for more. Peck refers to a much longer script. I would have liked to have seen more – to read his reasoning behind what he chose to keep and what he chose to cut. I’d also like to read a few pages of Remember This House (Baldwin’s notes for a novel on Evers, Malcolm X & King) for myself.

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