film by Haitian filmmaker, Raoul Peck
Nominated for Best Feature Length Documentary

“I Am Not Your Negro.” features Samuel L. Jackson delivering one of most nuanced and vulnerable narrations I’ve ever heard. Baldwin’s words for sure but Jackson’s reading of them is intimate, personal and heartfelt. This is a “story” that Baldwin began but unfortunately for us, did not complete before his death. It’s an examination of his responses to the deaths of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King. In his search for meaning in the midst these assassinations and his responses to them, he lays out our history, our inability to deal with what “we” have created – a racism so entrenched and acceptable that people don’t even know when they are racists. This is a deep dive into who we THINK we are as opposed to WHO WE REALLY ARE. There are wonderful clips of Baldwin on the Dick Cavett Show, clips of him involved in the Civil Rights Movement – all of this after his return from Paris in the late 1950’s as the Movement picked up steam. Baldwin was one of our most astutely critical voices during that period – a man whose razor sharp intelligence cut through the gobbledygook of racist double-speak with a machete-like brain-knife. He did our homework for us, calling out the white power structure for its recklessness, its policies that leave us so very compromised and often dead. This is a film to see, to buy, to watch with family and friends of all ethnicities… We need to know and we need to share our history. No better voice than Baldwin’s to help us with this difficult work.

film by Ava DuVernay
Nominated for Best Feature Length Documentary

“Selma” director Ava DuVernay has made a stunning documentary that draws a straight line from slavery to the prison/industrial complex generally and the outrageous number of African-American men “housed” in those prisons more specifically. The film examines many of the laws designed to remove us from the voting rolls, remove us from our very citizenship, destroy our families and our communities – much as slavery did.

Both of these documentaries are well-done, deserve your time and energy and deserve to be viewed far and wide. There are no lies here. No “fake news” and no nonsense. This is serious work about serious subjects that we would be well served to understand – all of us – black, white, Hispanic and everybody else who calls self an American. If we know the truth, we can heal. If we continue to speak and act as if none of this really happened, we’re doomed.

– DN

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