I Am Not Your Negro (obviously)

James Baldwin, The Last Interview.jpgUnsparing as history and enthralling as biography. It’s an evocation of a passionate soul in a tumultuous era. —Joel Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

There was something so odd, yet so fitting in watching the Oscar-nominated documentary,  I Am Not Your Negro, on a rainy weekend at the Masonic Temple. Sitting in a meeting hall on mismatched padded chairs with Masonic tapestries and a domed ceiling around us, the crowd included mostly couples, (many over 50) and one family with pre-teen boys. All of us white. Many of us, likely unfamiliar with any of James Baldwin’s writings. The screening had the feel of a town hall meeting where we’d all come together to get political.

Sadly, the sound was rather muffled in this temporary screening hall. It was hard to distinguish between James Baldwin’s voice and the narration by Samuel L Jackson. It’s a powerful film, in part because his words are still so relevant today. Sadly. Pairing his narrative about the lives and deaths of Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Martin Luther King Jr with contemporary video of the sad state of affairs in race relations in America today creates such a resonance that I heard members of the audience actually gasp out loud.

As the crowd quietly filed out of the hall and down the stairs, there was a shared silence and many people were glancing at strangers to see their reactions. It was a thoughtful silence and I didn’t see the usual rush to turn on cellphones. The idea of crowds of mainly white folks gathering to hear a lecture on why we need to stop thinking Black Lives Matter and start thinking how to heal our country as preached by a gay black activist that died in 1987…what a remarkable achievement.

If you’re like me, and you’ve only read James Baldwin’s poems and a few essays, you may be inspired to go pick up a few of his books. Here’s a few suggestions: Four books by James Baldwin. I’ll be headed to the library to find The Last Interview.

Rating: PG-13 for violence and a few swear words

Drinks With Films: 5 glasses of French wine out of 5 — a toast to Baldwin’s time in Paris

Release date: February 3, 2017 (USA)

Day-o, day-ay-ay-o Daylight come and me wan’ go home

Harry Belafonte.jpg

1st African American man to win an Emmy, 6 Gold Records including, “Calypso”

I’ve always looked at the world and thought what can I do next? Where do we go from here? How can we fix it? And that’s still how I look at the world, because there is so much to be done. The whole world is caught in human suffering. And those who professed about making change have not come up with answers. We have failed in terms of the moral side. We have to do more. —Harry Belafonte

What if you could choose to see a film at a local movie theater OR go see the same film at a Film Festival?  Hmmm…you don’t need to purchase advance tickets for a film at the multiplex…unless, of course, it’s Opening Weekend. Festival screenings are a different matter altogether. First, you need to know about the festival. Then, generally you need to purchase tickets in advance. Finally, you must arrive early and perhaps venture to a venue you’ve never been to…and if you don’t show-up 15 minutes before screen time, guess what? They can give your seat to someone standing in line. So, why bother?

What makes a film festival such a unique experience is the chance to hear from filmmakers and actors who travel to the festival representing the film. This week, you could go see the remarkable, Oscar-nominated documentary about writer James Baldwin,  I Am Not Your Negro at the temporary home of the Lyric Cinema Cafe (The Masonic Temple) in Fort Collins, and other art house cinemas in the area. OR you could purchase a ticket for the Closing Night of the ACT Human Rights Film Festival.  So, why wait till April 21st???

Why bother? Why wait? Because if you don’t, you’ll miss a great opportunity!  Your festival ticket for I Am Not Your Negro is your chance to see and hear from someone who knew James Baldwin personally, a remarkable humanitarian who also happens to be a famous movie star…someone you may never get the chance to see again…Harry Belafonte!

At the Second Annual ACT Human Rights Film Festival April 21st, there’s a screening of a biopic about this singer, actor and activist. Sing Your Song uses archival footage to celebrate the man who worked with Martin Luther King Jr, led civil rights marches, and fought against apartheid in South Africa. Harry Belafonte was an important leader in the Civil Rights Movement, and he continues to champion social justice. Colorado State University students can see Susan Rostock’s 2011 documentary for free at 4:30pm at the Lory Student Center Theater.

After the screening of Sing Your Song, the final film of the festival, I Am Not Your Negro will be presented in the same theater. The Sing Your Song star, Mr. Belafonte, will be there for the Question and Answer session post-screening. There will also be a Closing Night party in the Lory Student Center Ballroom.

Put this film festival on your calendar: April 14-21, 2017.  Purchase your tickets now!

Don’t let this opportunity come and go…Day-o Day-ay-ay-o