I am not Your Negro
The “You” in I am not your Negro refers to James Baldwin. He was an essayist, poet, novelist, playwright and a writer. He has moral imagination and an arsenal of artistic talent. James’ prose was his signature style. His style had depth of perception, intricate design and fierce determination to disintegrate the American republic racial assumptions. Even after his death in the year 1987, Baldwin’s work has always been the source of both demanding and deep beauty and insight. Additionally, James has received an unprecedented scholarly attention level among them, the commencement of an annual journal which is highly committed to preserving and reappraising his legacy.
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I Am Not Your Negro is a film that was inspired by Remember This House, which is an unfinished manuscript of James Baldwin. James’ intention when writing this manuscript was to make it a personal recollection of civil rights activists Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers. All these three leaders were his close friends and they were all assassinated within 5 years. 10 years after Martin Luther King Jr was killed, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literally agent informing him about a new book, which he was sketching out. The new book was supposedly going to feature the lives of his extraordinary friends. But unfortunately he made very little progress in the completion of this project. He had only written 30 pages by the time of his untimely death. I Am Not Your Negro film has, therefore, been based on the unfinished manuscript, his television appearances and his published works. The film starts with James’ return to America from France where he has lived for almost a decade. He returned to the U.S in the year 1957 after seeing Dorothy Counts, a 15 year old being surrounded by a violent white mob at Harding High School. The film reflects the life of Baldwin through civil rights movement, featuring his personal relationship to Martin, Medgar and Malcom.
In a repeated version, the film illustrated the unique capabilities of Baldwin to shed light on ways in which anti-black sentiments affected not only America’s political and social life but also the country’s cultural imagination. James was an active moviegoer and probably as a result, he wrote about several films in The Devil Finds Work book in the year 1976. The content of this book has been widely featured in the I Am Not Your Negrodocumentary. As a matter of fact, the documentary features several scenes from different films including Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), Dance, Fools, Dance (1931) and Imitation of Life (1934).
Scenes from these films have been used to demonstrate how Hollywood leads in black menace stereotypes and subservience to counter white innocence and purity. Even if I Am Not Your Negro is a documentary that depicts the American life in 1960s, there are also scenes that based on Baldwin’s insights which display the reality of the contemporary society. Most gripping scenes of this documentary are based on police violence on the black community in the 1960s and captions of the same kind of violence happening in the modern America, using James’ words to alleviate the amount of time between these two seasons. The movie illuminates the similarity between black deaths series that marked James’ life during the era of civil rightsand the death series of Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Aiyana Jones, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and many more. Circumstances surrounding James Baldwin’s life echo loudly in the I Am Not Your Negro documentary but remains silent on how sexuality affected his life and work.
Philippe Faucon is a French director of films born on January 26, 1958. He is also a producer and a screenwriter. He directed the film Fatima in 2015 which was in a director’s fortnight section screened. This show was held in the 2015 festival called, Canes Film. The film, therefore, emerged as the best and it received an award, Louis Delluc Prize and many other awards. Fatima has composed a bit of poetry to her elder daughter, Nesrine— in Arabic and she reads it since she is still learning French. Her poem regards her life with her daughters as they face the world alone. To her, raising her daughters is her rebellion in opposition to oppression.
The movie explores the sort of rebellion for a woman such Fatima: an immigrant from North Africa who is living in Lyon and divorced in her mid-forties. The community is not ready to incorporate women like her. Fatima finds a job and serves as a cleaner as she raises her two daughters. Meanwhile, he attempts to write, read and learn French further than the standard level. At this time, her elder daughter Nesrine is a first-year medical student while Souad is 15. The immigrant community pressurizes them and perceives Souad as Fatima’s reflection and Nesrine as stuck-up.
Fatima is not such a person that regularly complains, she contented with her value irrespective of the insults uttered by her daughter Souad at her work and her. She is susceptible to her virtual French illiteracy. It is a creator her difference, not just from the culture of French, but also from her daughters who are fluent in French language and assist her to correct the perplexing turns of expressions, with adequate achievement. Thus, the ability of Fatima to express herself in language is vital and is also a way of condemning a culture that indents to categorize her as a portion of the primitive underclass.
According to the director, Fatima is an easy but strongly captivating story of three women immigrant from two different generations striving to secure a place in the current French community. The learning of French language helps them to achieve this. It also shows off streaks of more common feminism. Since the women are working hard to have anything at all, they do not go around speaking about having it all. Specifically, Nesrine is afraid of failing in school because she cannot stand seeing the hopes of her parents dashed off. Fatima, being a woman that works for very long hours, wears a veil and raising her daughters as she the culture and the French language is revealed by Fatima’s intifada statement. The goal of the language is not to be French, but to oppose the prospects she feels from the women of her category and pare out her own pathway. She raises her daughters to be successful women while she does not conform to the expectations of other people.
Philippe Faucon the Director was born in Morocco and grew up between Algeria and Morocco before immigrating to France, his father’s native home. He observes the three women as intimate. We see Fatima tie her headscarf, wash couscous, fight with her daughter Souad and write in her diary and completely with no pity. Fatima is not sorry about this neither dies she ask the audience to be sorry. It is empathetic and funny and Philippe leaves most dramatic instances off-screen. He focuses on how the aftermath and the circumstances impact the relationship of the women to one another. In the end, the success of one of her daughters is celebrated. Fatima reads the results on the wall and her smile grows.
Isabelle is quite an interesting character in the movie, Let the Sunshine In. The movie is a romantic comedy featuring the life of a middle aged woman who is in her fifties, but struggling to find love. This woman is Isabelle, who after sleeping with a married man, Vincent who is a banker, starts having romantic relationships with men in search for the Mr. Right.
\one of the things of Isabelle’s desire is music or dancing. Right from the beginning of this film or movie, Isabelle can be seen dancing to a sweet music tune. One of the reasons she loves music and dancing is because it lets her feel free in spite of dark and stormy moments in her life. Music lightens up her mood and gets rid of any anxiety.
Romance or love is another one of Isabelle’s desires. She is the type of woman who does not shy away from love or romance just because the previous one failed. Isabelle, even in her fifties is very open to finding love. When love with one person does not work out, she moves on to the next. As a matter of fact, the Let the Sunshine In movie revolves around the love life of this woman- Isabelle. Isabelle, the lead character in this movie, uses romance to find and determine the right life partner. She does not need to get pregnant or have kids because she is contented with her daughter. Therefore, romance for her is a way of gaining pleasure. Unfortunately for her, she gets her heart broken every once in a while after sleeping with her potential suitors. As a result, her love life affects her self-esteem, self-worth and self-pride and changes her from a once optimistic woman into a broken and crashed woman.
Art is another thing that is very profound in Isabelle’s life. She is a great painter and this brings about the aspect of being creative. Art or painting in this case is used to facilitate pouring out emotions after frustration. Isabelle would meet someone who she hoped would turn out to be her soul mate but moments later she realizes that the other person wasn’t actually looking for a life-partner. From this kind of heartbreak and frustration, Isabelle would take refuge or seek consolation from art. She creates really beautiful pieces especially when frustrated and in solitude. It is her idea of sole time, what she does when alone.
Being present is another desire of Isabelle in the movie. She meets numerous characters in her life, both men and women. With the fact that all the characters she meets are unique each in their own way, Isabelle chooses to be present to each one of them. She exercised her presence by mainly listening to the people she met even during the first time. Additionally, she ensures that she is sensitive about her surroundings and whatever is going on without expecting too much or anticipating. This probably shows why she is able to easily move on from one heart-break after another because she does not have a lot of expectations.
Curiosity is also one of Isabelle’s desires in the sense that she remains hopeful. Every moment she meets a new person, she hopes that she has finally found a soul mate. Unfortunately when it does not work out, she gathers the remaining pieces of her heart and moves on to the next relationship eager to see what the next person has to offer. She moves on with hope that just maybe the next man is her life partner.
Agnes Varda who is in her golden years and JR, who is still in his youthful years, make such a good team together. They are the minds behind Faces places. Faces Places is a film that involved taking captions of people and interviewing them about their life, families and thoughts. These two had never met before and they had not worked together before. Therefore, spontaneous is one of the words that can be used to describe their collaboration. They had not premeditated their film project, it just happened when they started interacting. According to them, the first couple of days they met, they took photographs of each other. On the third day, they decided that they wanted to do a project together. That is how it started without getting to know each other first, as is the norm. They came to learn and know each other with time.
The collaboration between JR and Agnes shows a common way of thinking and similar values even if both of them belong to different generations. Right from the first time they met, every one of them liked something about the other. According to JR, he loved the complete freedom sense he felt when listening to Agnes and when watching a film directed by Agnes. He was fascinated by Agnes’ approach towards life. Agnes, on the other hand, first loved how JR took his photographs. She went through a book of portraits where he had taken photos of old people and she instantly developed a liking towards him. Having an effective collaboration was, therefore, not a challenge because these two had a similar approach and codes to their work.
Additionally, the collaboration between JR and Agnes was genuine and that is why both of them succeeded in their project. None of them had selfish desires of gaining fame or earning money. Their documentary was purely for the people they interviewed. They wanted to create heroes from people who are infamous and share their stories with the world by painting huge portraits and hanging them on buildings, walls and along the streets. These two did not care about the political inclination of the people they interviewed. Moreover, they were also not interested in asking for money in exchange of airing their stories. Their genuine motive and intention must have contributed a lot in the success of Face Places.
Coming from two different generations, these two must have sacrificed some things to accommodate each other. Their collaboration therefore, can be described as selfless. JR, a young man in his mid-thirties comes from a generation where one films, texts and writes all at the same time. Agnes, on the other hand, belongs to a generation where you take a break, think not one or twice, maybe thrice before implementing an idea. This is how different their worlds were and still are. However, both of them found a common ground which facilitated accommodating each other, despite their differences.
Both Agnes and JR are creative individuals and this hugely impacted their collaboration in a positive way. Agnes being a filmmaker and JR being a photographer gave Face Places best of the both worlds. These two being artists, both of them saw things at different angles and their contribution made their documentary the best because there was diversity of ideas. In short, there two complemented each other, leaving no gap to their audience. The fact that they would listen to each other and be flexible enough to accommodate each other had a huge contribution the success of their collaboration.
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