SARATOGA SPRINGS –Saratoga Jewish Community Arts with Temple Sinai will present on Sunday. Feb. 7, at 7 p.m. another in its series on racial justice, a Zoom panel discussion of the documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” directed by Raoul Peck and based on the writings of James Baldwin. The film may be viewed prior to the discussion online and discussion attendees are asked to view it.
“I Am Not Your Negro,” a 2016 film, is derived from Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript Remember this House. The documentary received critical acclaim and a Best Documentary Oscar nomination before it opened nationwide. Remember this House was intended to be a personal recollection of Baldwin’s friends — Civil Rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. —all of whom were assassinated within five years of each other. Peck’s film relies almost exclusively on Baldwin’s writings that are narrated by Samuel L. Jackson.
The film chronicles Baldwin’s life through the Civil Rights movement focusing on his personal relationships to the three murdered leaders. Its construction is formed from his writings and his on-camera appearances.
Repeatedly, the documentary demonstrates Baldwin’s ability to expose the ways anti-black sentiment constituted not only American social and political life, but also its cultural imagination. Baldwin was an avid moviegoer and wrote of films in a 1976 work, The Devil Finds Work. Peck brings discussion of how various films show Hollywood stereotypes of a black menace and subservience as foils for white purity and innocence to his documentary.
Baldwin’s insights may illuminate contemporary reality.
As part of a 1961 radio panel that included fellow black literary luminaries, Baldwin remarked: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time. So that the first problem is how to control that rage so that it won’t destroy you.” On the other hand, he was not a defeatist as he wrote, “I can’t be a pessimist because I’m alive. I’m forced to be an optimist.”
Registration for the Zoom link for the discussion is at firstname.lastname@example.org.