Slough Cooperative Film Society Slough Cooperative Film Society

The Society has been showing the best of world and independent cinema in Slough for 70 years




USA/France/Belgium/Switzerland 2016 93 mins

Film extracts:
A Raisin in the Sun Uncle Tom’s Cabin Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Baldwin’s Nigger Stagecoach In the Heat of the Night
Pressure Don’t Look Back The Pajama Game
Dance, Fools, Dance The Monster Walks They Won’t Forget
Elephant Lover Come Back Imitation of Life
No Way Out The Defiant Ones Love in the Afternoon
King Kong Custer of the West Little Big Man
Soldier Blue Lullaby of Broadway
With the voice of: Director: Writers:
Samuel L. Jackson Raoul Peck James Baldwin, Raoul Peck
I am not your Negro poster

A blistering exploration of American culture, this film focusses on racial issues that have been a driving force across the nation, whether or not citizens realise it. But this isn't a political movie; it's a poetic odyssey based on the words of author James Baldwin, whose sharp observations ring devastatingly true. Even though he died in 1987, what he has to say is relevant and important.

In 1979, Baldwin proposed writing a book titled Remember This House, about the iconic 1960s civil rights murders: Medgar Evers in 1963, Malcolm X in 1965 and Martin Luther King Jr in 1968. Baldwin knew these three men personally, and describes how he learned of their violent deaths. He also understood that they were very different men who were activists in the same cause, seeking some sort of solution to the racial inequality that repeatedly boiled over into protests. And Baldwin realised that this issue reveals a lot about the American psyche in general.

Filmmaker Peck assembles this with skill, artfully juxtaposing newsreel footage, period interviews and telling clips from more than a century of cinema and television, plus crisp new images that bring the themes to the present day. Over this, Jackson speaks Baldwin's words, which poetically observe the situation with an eerie prescience that rattles us to the core. The cumulative effect of this film is to completely redefine how we perceive America's cultural traditions and history.

The central idea is that these three murders "bang against and reveal each other". Baldwin's perceived role as a witness to society (rather than as an activist) made him unusually sensitive to spotting connections, which makes his commentary unusually pointed, vividly showing how films and television have eroded a sense of reality about the true make-up of America and the meaning of the American Dream. Since Baldwin's comments are so personal, they're also darkly moving ("I was not allowed to act like I belonged here").

Peck drives the points home by cutting from the violent 1963 Birmingham riots to 2014 Ferguson. And Baldwin's conclusions are chilling: that this isn't a racial problem, but a sign that America is an infant nation that values sincerity and immaturity, revealing its emotional poverty in a fear of outsiders, sexuality, the inner self and the fact that real people still pay a high price for America's prosperity. Which is why the privileged misunderstand their protests. Baldwin's words and Peck's imagery back this up with jarring evidence of how entertainment has consistently dumbed down the public. And there can never be a true American dream as long as segments of society are denied it.

Rich Cline at