I think the title alone is enough to have you turn your head or send a sting through your veins. I’m not sure if I saw the theatrical poster or trailer first, but both had me anticipating this documentary. Every time I walked past the poster it was like seeing words you want to say to every white person just being put there out in the open for them to see, kind of having me like I was saying it out loud, at the same time hoping you understand it. I can admit I honestly didn’t know about James Baldwin. However when I watched him in the trailer my ears and eyes were open, and he had my full attention. It felt like he was speaking for us/me, and this is just what the documentary felt like. I am not a fan of writing reviews for films like these because I admit I’m often fixed with mixed feelings that involve a lot of anger. But please know if you see this film I’m saying this…”Yeah! What James Baldwin said!”
It took me a minute to get into the documentary, as I wasn’t sure where the story was going as the narrative centered on Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcom X, noted Civil Rights Leaders who were all gunned down before the age of 40. What I liked about the documentary revolving around these men was because he made them more than just civil rights leaders who White Americans found as a threat. He made us see that they were men who were fathers, and husbands, brothers, who were targeted and killed…for what…because the White American felt threatened. Very similar to what is happening today, as the documentary dives into the stories of today where black men and children are being targeted by police and gunned down in the street, unarmed, yet still looked at as a threat. Oh how far we have come right? ~rolling eyes. I can’t really say this documentary is for US, but instead for “All Lives Matter” movement, for your white friend who gets surprised when a cop kills another unarmed black man in the street, and all of those still living comfortably in their happy bubble. WE don’t need to see this because we live it every day. I was in a theater watching this film with a silent predominantly white audience who, if only for a moment, got a glimpse of what’s really happening outside of their own secure lives. As was noted in the documentary, American History is not pretty, and without US you would have no history at all.
This movie couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. White Americans keep putting fuel on the fire, who’s going to stand around to get burned. The pressure is getting hot in America right now and people are going to find themselves shocked when those bubbles you have comfortably been living under begin to POP! James Baldwin did not refer to it as a Civil Rights Movement but instead a Slave Rebellion. We haven’t come that far, and we are on the path for history to repeat itself. As Malcom X said “If one is a citizen, one should not have to fight for his own civil rights”…A+