Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck’s next project will center on the legendary writer, essayist and novelist James Baldwin. During this phase of Mr. Peck’s career, the filmmaker seems to be preoccupied with exploring the lives of the world’s intellectuals. His last film was Young Karl Marx, based on the German writer’s friendship with Friedrich Engels during an eight-year period.
Here’s what we know so far about the James Baldwin documentary.
1. It will cover a specific period in James Baldwin’s life.
Like Young Karl Marx that centers on a decade and the correspondence that figure had with the fellow philosopher, the James Baldwin documentary will cover the last years of the writer’s career.
2. The documentary will be marketed with an alias.
Peck’s project is entitled I Am Not Your Negro. It will be marketed in the USA under that name, but with an alternative title Remember This House. This is a reference to the title of the essay collection that Baldwin begun to work on about the assassinations of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.
3. The documentary has already set the film festival world abuzz.
The Toronto International Film Festival will debut I Am Not Your Negro on the festival circuit, and a month later, it will be screened at the Brooklyn International Film Festival. Peck will serve as a keynote speaker at the conference, (which will also feature Jonathan Demme (who directed The Agronomist, a doc about Haitian journalist Jean-Leopold Dominique).
4. The documentary is produced by Peck’s very own production company.
Most of Peck’s films are co-productions, usually with French and/or German. The Baldwin doc was solely produced by Peck’s very own production company Velvet Film, and is written and produced by him as well.
Above: a scene from I Am Not Your Negro.
5. Peck is a huge fan of James Baldwin and his work.
He’s told the media that he read the scribe’s work as a teenager. Among Peck’s body of work is a film Lumumba, based on the life of Patrice Lumumba, a leader of Zaire (now Congo). This work won Peck a great many awards and acclaim, and his attachment to the Lumumba’s story is not unlike the one he professes to feel for Baldwin’s legacy. Peck reportedly has the blessings of Baldwin’s estate for I Will Not Be Your Negro, a relief considering so many biopics and docs don’t usually get the full approval of the subject’s surviving family members.
The world awaits this documentary, and like a great many of the Haitian filmmaker’s past projects, there’s nothing but high hopes in the international film community. Mr. Peck, who was honored last year in London with a special retrospective of his career, was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and grew up in the Congo and Germany.