By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Oklahoma City University will screen the critically acclaimed documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” on Wednesday, August 30. The screening, which is about the Civil Rights movement, will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Meinders School of Business in the Kerr-McGee Auditorium at N.W. 27th Street and McKinley Avenue. The screening is free to the public.
Released last spring to sold out theaters across the nation, the film is meant to help reacquaint viewers with the words and mind of writer/cultural critic James Baldwin 30 years after his death.
Baldwin (1925 – 1987) was an essayist, playwright and novelist regarded as a highly insightful, iconic writer who broke new literary ground with the examination of racial and social issues. He was especially well known for his essays on the black experience in America. https://www.biography.com/people/james-baldwin-9196635
OKCU Film Institute director Tracy Floreani said she was amazed at the reception a documentary received on its release, since documentaries don’t often sell out screenings.
“I wanted to provide another opportunity for people in this area to see it—or see it again—and continue the important conversations it started last spring,” she said.
Floreani contends that as Baldwin’s ideas about race and American identity seem as relevant now than ever, director Raoul Peck (“Lamumba,” “Sometimes in April”) brings to life his unfinished last book, which was a personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends—Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
“I don’t think film can change the world or film can change the fate of a country—people change the fate of a country,” Peck stated. “But at the same time, I know . . . that film can change a person, because it [catches] you at the right moment and helps you do the necessary change.”
Combining Baldwin’s writing with archival footage, the film confronts the deeper connections between the lives and assassinations of the three leaders and representations of African Americans in various national institutions.
Ultimately, the film challenges viewers to examine the definition of what America stands for.
A review in the The New York Times stated, “You would be hard-pressed to find a movie that speaks to the present moment with greater clarity and force, insisting on uncomfortable truths and drawing stark lessons from the shadows of history.”
The voice-over narration, read by Samuel L. Jackson, is taken from Baldwin’s work – much of which comes from notes and letters written in the mid-1970s, when Baldwin was “reluctantly sketching out a book, never to be completed, about the lives and deaths of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King J.” the Times article noted.
A short discussion will take place following the film presentation. All screenings of the OKCU Film Institute are free to the public, but donations are welcome.
The Film Institute is supported by the Thatcher Hoffman Smith Endowment Fund for the University’s Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film and Literature.
For more information about all the Center’s programming, visit okcufilmlit.org.