Fresno Filmworks will present two screenings of the Oscar-nominated documentary “I Am Not Your Negro” at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 10, at Fresno’s Tower Theatre (815 E. Olive Ave.).
“I Am Not Your Negro” is a reinvention of civil rights activist James Baldwin’s unfinished book, “Remember This House.” Baldwin’s book was to be a look at the lives, and ultimate deaths, of his friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. According to Filmworks, “the film brings Baldwin’s manuscript to life, using his own words and explorations on the racial narrative of America, with images, sounds and music from both the past and present.”
I asked Jefferson Beavers, who serves on the Filmworks board as development director and chairs a committee that works on memberships, sponsorships, community partnerships, youth outreach, and strategic planning, to tell me more about this month’s offering.
FresYes: What made Filmworks choose this particular film for this month’s screening?
Jefferson Beavers: Filmworks chose to screen “I Am Not Your Negro” for several reasons. One, the film was recently an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature, and we always try to show as many Oscar-nominated independent films as we can when they’re available to us. Two, the film is distributed by Magnolia Pictures, a small distributor that we have enjoyed a loyal 15-year relationship with, and we often partner with them to bring their best indie and international movies to Fresno.
But most of all, the urgency of the film’s content made it an essential pick for us at this current time. It’s part of our mission to bring culturally significant movies to the community to engage within a public space.
Considering the American political climate, in particular the atmosphere created by the current presidential administration, we think “I Am Not Your Negro” holds deep significance at this moment.
The amplification of a multitude of voices, we feel, is always crucial, no matter what the film selection. But the opportunity to share the work and worldview of James Baldwin, one of the iconic literary voices in this country’s history, made this film a particularly relevant selection for us. Baldwin famously says: “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story.” We feel that’s a story our communities deserve to hear so we can collectively grapple with it.
FY: What have you chosen for next month’s screening?
JB: Our next Filmworks screening is Friday, April 14. We will be showing this year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, “The Salesman,” a dramatic thriller from Iran by master filmmaker Asghar Farhadi.
Thanks to Jefferson Beavers for talking with me. You can find his post on resistance films, like “I Am Not Your Negro,” here.
From Haitian director and social activist Raoul Peck and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, “I Am Not Your Negro” is rated PG-13 and is an hour and 35 minutes long. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for students and seniors.
Fresno Filmworks presents films on the second Friday of each month. Check out the website for more information on upcoming films.
Following the early screening of “I Am Not Your Negro,” Fresno State panelists Thomas-Whit Ellis, Melissa Harris and Dr. Francine Oputa will lead a discussion.
Ellis is a professor and theatrical director in the Department of Theatre Arts, Harris is a graduate student in the Department of Communication and Oputa is director of the Cross Cultural and Gender Center.