Filmmaker Raoul Peck spent more than a decade putting together the documentary I Am Not Your Negro, a powerful film illuminating the words and life of writer and social critic James Baldwin. But as Marc learns in this conversation, Raoul’s own backstory of living under dictatorships, studying across four continents, and learning how to engage activism through art is just as important in understanding how to respond to the world today.
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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
All right. Let's do this, how are you what the voters, what the fuck bodies, what the buccaneers, what the factors? How are you a marked marin. This is w p at this is my podcast. You know it's sad. Add day, as I tell you this, I learned. I learn that bill paxton, the actor passed away because of tat, occasions during a surgery the guy was just here. He was just here. He was sitting across from in the empty chair that I'm looking at right now, just a few weeks ago. It was
besides seven eighty three, eighty with just a couple weeks ago, he was he was right there full of life. I was so excited. that guy didn't. I didn't know him, but I was I sometimes get very excited. Two people in here because I love him. I love him I have always work, she might get likening it's great guy and he was so very gracious giving lit a human being over there to sit in their excited to be here. I was excited to talk to him, and now he aegis he's gone life. Is so fuckin fragile? You just don't know what's going to happen, and it just is just its tragic, but I tell you I'm glad I had that time with them, like
many people in here, like all I'm looking for, is to connect with the a human being and that guy was just full on force of nature, human being grounded decent excited, passionate. talented guy, that we all know from all the movies so fuckin off. What's it you so sad, but that life is just so Horribly surprising, sometimes and and I'm in shock- and I just I barely knew the guy- I won conversation with a shared Do you guys- and it was amazing- I was a universe, hoping to see see him again seized more of his work, but he's gone passed away and
It's funny because he, when he was in here, you know he said no matter. How many movies I make weird science is gonna, be the first thing in my obituary. He said that sitting right there in that empty chair across from me, so he chairs everywhere. Folks, it's part of the inhuman. But it is funny, though, because you know, there's really nothing wrong with being known for playing. Funny role that at that made an impression on so many young people. the allies movie that they never forgot because of bill pacts in, but the first line and pretty much all the obituaries I saw was. Bill pack them was a versatile and generous actor in.
Is everyone who has paid tribute to him that I looked at talks about what a kind and friendly person he was god dammit just two weeks ago, life is so fuckin fragile and surprising and incomprehensible that sometimes many of us have been feeling this for weeks now may be for years for different reasons, and then the sadness deepens when things get close, and he was right there in that chair. Spare few people have sat there that no longer with us and when I really think about it, it's its brutal. It's a brutal fuckin reality of life, but man am I glad I got a chance to talk to these people. it was just great to get to know him as a person.
We always gotta remember that there are people in front of us that if you go outside, we spend time. work or wherever you go see. Those people see them Get out of your head see the people. It's very important now to see people to engage empathy to connect as human beings. Who want to live good lives, free lives and do what they want with their life in comfort, safety. You know, I don't know I you know, I am I it makes me, I'm just lost in a certain.
Swirl of of sadness at the fragility of life, and that's all stand expandable and my condolences and hard to go out to Those friends and family, and just days is horrible. I guess out of the gate here, I should tell you that you have my guest today, Raoul pack is rector of the film? I am not your negro, it is a powerful documentary about James Baldwin and I had to watch it two times because it is so deep, so moving and so powerful, both in words and actions and the scope of what the conversation is. in the film and the one I'm about to have about the film that I just
It's it's an amazing movie. I was excited that terrible peck could be here. I'm just looking at tat quotes from Mister bell. one online here, and one of them is. I love america more than any other country in this world and exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticise her perpetually supported important. Important to keep that in your head, but other things- I should table this june first, if you're in new york, city or the surrounding areas, you might want to think about going to this year's book expo because I will be there to conduct a precision in front of alive audience with my old air america, coworker senator Al Frank and you can go to book. Expo america com to get tickets view not seeing the full book expo across both days. You can get a single day pass just remember my event, with senator frank and will be on thursday.
june. First it'll be fine. I really am excited. I get a kick out of out of the centre. As a has a new book coming. I called out frank and giant of the Senate, so we'll have to have a lot to talk about not only about it s an snl days, but also about being a united states senator and one with a great deal of spunk these days. Thank god and incidentally I guess I should tell you that I also have a book coming out later this year. Why say we have a book doesn't come out until october, but I'll tell you a little bit about it now. cause waiting for the punch words to live by from the w E f podcast and, I'll tell you this people? When my producer I started on this more than two years ago what we did not know what it would be like, we could have ever imagine what an amazing thing it is when you like. I ate it
It is really without question the best possible book to come out of doing this. Show it's it's like it's like this. It's an amazing thing to hold in your hands and experience, no. That sounds like hype, but we're both really pay this thing and error, and I think it's a special thing, because to be honest with you once I have these conversations in here, yeah, that's it for me, and in reading this thing through and seeing well, things that are said in connection with another human being with someone, there to bear witness and hold the space and your what you're, saying and to read it is like unlike reading anything else and could not believe how fulfilling it was again. It's not hype, we're just we're just very proud. Tell you more about it when we start the presale but get excited, it's gonna be something you'll. Definitely, love comes
October, it's a long ways away in god, willing we'll all be here and still able to buy books and my being my being a dark, my guest today, Raoul Peck made the film I am not your negro is a documentary about James Baldwin. Now I felt a little secure, I get or not, maybe not insecure, but a little egg ignorant may he is a better word in that. Just like six months ago, ass I saw footage of james Baldwin ed debating. We am buckley at oxford in england, had not read James Baldwin's work and- and I have read much of it very little and after watching that piece of that debate I was blown away at the wheel
all of humanity and intellect and the depth of it. All that that man had- and I was right. Are you fucking moved? I had to watch it two or three times and then, when I got a screener this film and watched it, I had to watch it twice the depth of his intelligence and again humanity, is just profound and not, unlike anything else, cultural criticism, film, criticism, police your criticism by the movie is really moving through this book that he never finished that he wanted to write about his three friends. Seeing that his wife and the strong love of amerika and race through the deaths of malcolm maximum. luther king and medgar evers, And it had a lot of footage of bottom I got the decapitato on talk, show some footage of that term. Debate that I saw had bits and pieces
films- and it was all from his his words- sort of assessing the. racial predicament, and I felt a little out of my way to talk to mister peck about this. But I I just cop to that because a movie at such a profound effect on me and It was so disturbing really how little has changed on some level in a very deep way. And you know what were really kind of struck me and you listen to the interview issues, Its again about c, other people with some form of compassion. Not blinded by anger. one way or the other- and you are not you know, reacting. something that your head is generating.
No, it's very hard! Now, you're? U, theoretically, you suppose. I have some control over what you, let into your mind, what you let into your head and a lot of times. We prefer things that substantiate our points of view that make us feel better, that DE yo, he he that seem right and a lot of times. It's not, On all sides, but it's become very hard to filter. And because of that, I think that a lot of what you are reacting to most people in general. Or hating or, loving or whatever is is in your head, he's not in reality. It may have some point of view. France in reality, but it is not. It is in your head and you got a separate that man.
Because I think what we're losing is our ability to see each other as people and we in its we can't, which is kept fuckin afford to lose out in any way, and I talk about that a bit with the mister peck and about you know lot of other things, but I'll tell you that movie is powerful and it needs to be seen a couple of times. Fr I actually watched ability Scores last night to see if my my guests, film, was going to take best document. with that went to the oj movie, which was also a great film. But here I am not. Your negro stands alone, something It's really amazing. An amazing document of an amazing person amazing mind and profoundly a deep understanding and bringing together of a lot of ideas that are there that are frankly horrifying but real
and provides a lot of inciting Exactly. the human dynamics of those forces. It was a great pleasure to talk to my guest at director. I am not your negro Raoul pack, so I join us now, how's it going. This is exciting. You're running around here ass, our nominee. I can't even in a way I were going well beyond one hour exciting. Is it well yes, No as a filmmaker, you don't win, especially when you've spent ten years of your life, making a film a complicated film that you don't even know. If artistically he can know it can work yeah, you know to
and so having survived that and and then you have such a great a claim that you know you see how the film is changing people. You know the discussion after the movie, you know not only during q and a but off yeah. I know people stay in the room in the lobby or in the parking out, and they have discussion and then they come back to you. Yet They come back with the family to friends, they organized groups to go to see the film together just to be, ambience again in that atmosphere it sitting in a credible why it's like me? I watched it in and then I watched it again because the depth of of James Baldwin as a as a thinkers, is beyond anything I've ever seen before and you know I gotta get nervous because You know there is either why guy we award- this movie
and then having the opportunity to talk to you there there's party, methinks I like, I'm, not qualified. Well, that's it contrary, because baldwin docks to everybody, It's why it's not about who you are it's it's it's who you're as a human being right, and he confront you with that echo: your responsibility is as a human being, not as a white person eyes, a black person right. We each have all duty or responsibility and he's telling all of us to all of us. You better face it. You need to respond to what is happening in this country that yeah you and I get that you know. But the interesting thing for me is a guy who's, a you know, liberal guy who's, a guy who you are thoughtful. I I've read a few books. That there was a feeling of light. you are somehow I'm complicit. Yes, of course, you know with something that that did wake something up. You take a lot of things for granted. Well, it's it's!
like you know the way I see it is like you or you have this great teacher. you know who knew you since you were ten and then one day he sat down and said. Listen, I want to talk to you. I'm gonna tell you, you know this is life, and this this is what you ve been going, and there are some stuff that you need to face The end away said it in the very it's not antagonistic it's not with with hate or with anger or the anger is the anger of somebody who who have gone through so much beyond and wants to lead it out. But he's not addressing you is you know, and that's very rare and I saw you listen to the voice, of course. In u s into it and and ie, you know he speaks because the footage you have of him you know, there's there's dick cabot footage work. In a conversation, and Some other talk show footage.
And then you have samuel jackson, doing an amazing team. I'll do incredible. Yes, I e it began the same objectives as such a distinct voice that I didn't realize it was him both times. While that does the same, People have now a sort of cliche. I would say Aren t no risk. The idea of age of of the savage ice on their knees, though much more than that is incredible. Actor is whether he was a stage actor realities is somebody who learned his skill shore was incredibly talented and can do anything beyond and the way you know I didn't have to give him too much direction. It was just the only I could tell him you know you need to be the voice yeah. I know I do not want any distance between you
these words in a we are inside jibs Baldwin head right. So you need to feel the emotion youth need to feel the tragic you need to fill the irony. You need to feel any an exact. so it it's a performance. Yeah now is all they like. It is all the the narration take from my from the young the manuscript of waste that remember this house. Yes, well, it's more complete, given that the letter to the additive, yet exactly down a few document that were handed to me by Gloria. Carry for smart was just baldwin sister, and who's running down his states again and for years into the process where I was still struggling about. What is the the right organic approach to make? This fear me, as I had access to everything possible
on publish to the estate from the area they gave me really that's unprecedented b. I ever happened before in the film industry. Well, let me ask you a question from that point. There then You know, you're credentials are our deep, a you know I have been involved with film for for decades you have a production company which I I read about, but you know where do you come from, because you clearly you know it's not an american accent Ever now I have a complicated, but a complex lived I'm haitian born in Haiti. My parents left to go to work in the congo to her did they flee. Lay from my father was arrested twice and popular doc by the yet by a regime.
He lost his job. He was a professor at the faculty of grown ami. Why was he was arrested? While you didn't have to do much in a dictatorship to be arrested here? He was not really a politically employee. It is just you know you, because you didn't campaign for fodder dictator So you all taken an enemy by the way we are seeing that today in the? U S, administration. Here, if you not agree, you you have to leave here so imagine what it is, and in a country that you know going through democratic so he he just let you know new that he had to leave here and others time do you came to haiti and had fought four hundred contracts. four haitian doctors engineers and professes to go work in the congo, Most Congo was newly independent and the belgian who had you know, kept everything under their hands. Never
a train congolese to be able to rule their country right, so they had to do that like in emergency measure. So I came to haiti because haiti is, no one of the few back countries who had an elite who had enough people fully train and spock's fines as well and so they recruit a lot of do my father's generation and you made a feature film plan. I made a film about lumumba. He has the first prime minister of congo, assassinated by the sea. I ate a frenchman and some other kind of a belgian. so to congo was a very important place. For me, it was my first linked to the continent and I went to school there. After a few years, we had to be evacuated to new york because there was some political problem, and so I went to school in brooklyn in a public school in brooklyn, nea flatbush avenue and nostrand avenue ads
that was my first. You know really experience in the united states in this country. So that's when we apply for full residency because we didn't know you know we know you we couldn't go back to haiti. That's the only thing because not forget the dictatorship lasted until nineteen. Eighty six. Until I wasn't adult after my studies. So do you remember because it like this certainly part of this film? I'm not your negro is there there is, there is a sense of terror underneath it in some me, I'm very real way that there is a sense of violent in terror and again you know a horrendous sub, separate of people. Do you remember that from your childhood.
While they do a civil type of terror. There was the terror of of roadblocks in haiti in oh, I remember the first time my father was arrested and we just new because he didn't come home and my father, my mother, took me in the eye- was the only child at the time. I have now to my brothers but at the time I was the youngest of the first job, and I remember being in the back of that car. It was night roadblocks and my mother going everywhere and in there was an old curfew, she was not supposed to be on the street that you know it was nine o clock in the evening and it was a very strange in a confrontation with with terror, because you know those who rod bronx, they could just decide Juno to shoot, ought to arrest. You ought to do whatever they want they wander towards. You know, there was no rules and ending
it'll be enough. When we went to Congo, we had the same kind of roadblocks as well in in you know, time of of really big political confrontations yeah and so, and when I went to brooklyn it was a time where you know- could get mugged in industry here. So I felt like I grew up always in knowing what violence was and what you know to arbitrary. Yes was, and I think that had a profound and friends on me and my work, you know if you know the list of my films in every found, there is
notion of you know a people owning your life and are in a very arbitrary away and deciding of or about your you know, being killed or not, and this is a sense that I always kept with me. You know, even in germany, where I studied later on. I think there was not one single day. I didn't think about the holocaust. You know that in germany being an incredible of country, you know who produced the best brand of
the of the century from you know an shtein to do the best. You know composer of you know a wagon of wagner, yeah, all the others, great finca, and that same country was able to produce that kind of monstrosity that the nazi regime was in one and it it's so it those elements always kept me alive throughout my life and and that's where I a rejoin baldwin at some way. You know he has a a quote and I'm very bad at board, but its he said. You know, I you know. Every human being is an incredible miracle. And I learned to to love me. because they are, but also to protect myself from the monster. They have become it's hard to tell sometimes and yes and then, but that some
something it's what he says is about. You know how you deal with with people and and societies, and you know we can do the most incredible of things and at the same time become the the the the worst monster possible all this in good conscience. You know when you your question before about you know the drill the moral monster. You know when balding calls the whole western civilization of moral monster because they went into countries colonise them all day invented slavery. Somehow they use it with total that's a good conscience. Rightly the early. It's any goes on it, about how if only the people there, were enjoying this quorum quote freedom yes knew how many lives it cost to theatre, to sustain it and created so
That's so do the western civilisation and, in its also the reaction of it said the winner, the winner, decide about the narrative right. So one and we have been in a very early centric world. Us fall for several centuries now right, well and in in that way, for god all they forgot that there are other realities. and you know you. When you get to ride to narrative, you decide who is the good guy and was the bad guy right and then they there was at point where, in the way structure the film when it towards the beginning, where they thought that vengeance was there is to take because they had the moral high ground exactly which was at times genocidal. Yes, So when you are in germany. Is that where you want to film school? Yes, the berlin. In fact, I I
you know I never had in mind to become a filmmaker coming from haiti. This is not something serious you do as a living. Oh sure, my parents, you know, of course you gonna be an engineer and I choose something that was in between. There was a new diploma call. You know industrial engineering, so it was pot, engineering and bought economy. So the mixture of the boat that's something that seems appealing to be near you. I couldn't work in all candles, you're industries, so that's why I went to study in germany in berlin and I those studies, it's a very long because it's a double study reopened. Seven years studying, I phoenicia! I got my diploma, my master and
I started a phd for development policies and two years into that, the that a p h d, I my my have tos his father died in a I accidentally and power they leave. I was already working with friends on you know. I was making photos for the anti french german magazine. Oh yeah newspaper, I would do enter view. Berlin is very an incredible cultural city, yahoo. You have the biggest film festival, biggest jazz, at the festival, theatre, festivals. So I would usually try to have interviews a photo of you know the artist coming from latin america from the whole time. and so that's how I met a lot of- does people great artists over the years. And so that was a kind of job
I had, but it was my way to be a cultural shirt circle all the time yeah, and at that point you know, I went to back to new york because my girlfriend at the time was a filmmaker and she had a contract in new york. So I went with her. I work as a taxi driver in new york and but of course is made it. You know he was. A taxi driver became a founding there now and it's not that I don't have that met mythology right. I just need a job that they grew. I leave you know yet I wanted rife, and while I was thinking about my next step, you know so
Basically, during that, at that time I decided ready to say well, I really want to make film and in order to make it on a solid basis, I need to go back to fiscal, so I passed the exam too to the berlin academy, which was a very selective school. They took only eighteen student a year and is of very complicated. You know exam over. You know several weeks when it's a really. What is it? What part? What does it do like? What are the well are you out of all you had to bring in a lot of pile of works that you you have done? I autographs what oh grabbed they give you a while there is usually automatic, and you need to do like a photo shoot about that thematic. You need to write a scene using that dramatic. You need to do a sort of report
while those sort of documentary airport it means it yet how many layers, in fact, it's more tooth the. What are your cap abilities and different level right in all? It's not like there is a particular profile to be a filmmaker right did just want to see. You know, how do you fair among all different. You knows you're dying and want to get a sense of your creativity. I gave that only how do you transform a content into images or into a story right saw so it's very competitive and and its great it was a great exam and it forces you also to discover who you are. You know, because you can't really cheap, You don't need to be yourself right and but something cannot all share data. You need to put your your belly under age and be naked. Basically,
and so and then once you get in, you know it's one of the best school, because you don't pay anything, you know it state funded. You have money to make your film and it's the training. Is you learn by making films sure and in how long is that programme is a four year program really got in oil, it's what again at, and it was in fact we did two years. Already written this green bay and which I submit to german television. And what was that about? and it was my first story about the young haitian poet who is living in brooklyn new york and who was arrested in haiti and tortured and and he met one of those torture of former military in the streets of brooklyn while and and then he stopped
looking for him to get revenge so, but it was more more an occasion for me to talk about this immigration, haitian immigration, who had left eighty because of the dictatorship and because it was a long dictatorship at one point, some of the people who were themself murderers, all torturer, gotta, got out as well, they would could front in the streets of new york that happened that no real story- yeah- those right, no people who who it'll confronted to somebody who had put in prison. There was a couple of mass immigration, so I very dramatic on boats and yeah well that that came later, that he has you another step up in the dramatic development of eighty by but that's something you know I have friends from shilly or from Brazil or from the koran. Who had gone through those same experience,
to the united states and then a meat that one of their former torturer chrome and it's it's weird situation, but I would say something: If you, you know you're here and you want to forget about your past, you don't want to be confronted with it, and then you see that this particular guy had never had to come in front of a justice. You know trial and ah, and then you know the the the traumatic sure, and he probably has fled, because his wife was endanger. Of course, of course, you know that's what that kind of regime. Does you gotta use you and then, when they don't need you anymore, yeah, you you're our drawn out or in jail or injured or killed. It is, so like right from the get go in. You know, because of your life and because of your experience, which is you know your unique it to to situations like that? You know that these films were comp. You know they were getting into it. I mean you weren't, you are making enter.
im know that that's one of the thing I came to movie because of politics, and because of my engagement, you know it was you know, I I told you I went to film school. I was twenty six, ready. I was already an adult rifle. I knew why it was not just I want to make you to tell stories. React with actor. Yeah cetera, it was about. You know how do I can? How can I be of some use to my society or wherever I was leaving? Then it was always about going back home right in all its eyes. in berlin. But knowing that at some point I will have to go back to haiti and fight. You know undercover all with general, some organization that
without a doubt, you we'd. Oh yes, oh yes, degeneration before me by the we went back to eighty and they were all killed, because what we didn't know at the time is at the c I a new about that and they got the gave the information to the regime, because the dvd was supported by the american by every american administration, because it was a sort of bulwark against communist. Ah, so they would prefer to have a dictator that is undecided right then, to have anything that sir. socialists or communist saw it it. It was a very hot time, so I never thought that I was going to stay in germany or in europe. It was always about going back home, not forget. I was in film school in eighty three and the dictatorship lasted until nineteen eighty, six
So my goal was to go back and like the goal of many of my friends, it was always to go back home whether you wear haitian, all she lay in on from Nicaragua or from turkey by from IRAN, where our yeah yeah. It was about you no going back and serve and that's it saying that you're james Baldwin, you know struggled with attitude. Was it was not innate to him to your ones, He fled america for for personal and political reasons and and and spent all that time in france. really became who he was that there was, it seems the film, though there was a reluctance that debt eventually became a no choice, That's the saying you know, and you never can totally renounced to where you come from to where you grew up. To where you know that
smell. You had the first. I screamed. Models are important memories in your life, so when you are forced to leave your country and that's to come to the refugee crisis, here crisis they call here in nobody wants to leave his home town. Even you know a here. We are a country of immigrants but why is it? We have little italy, we have chinatown. Because you still have that cultural link and that somehow emotional, linked to wherever you come from forever yeah forever and, and so Syrian refugees are coming. Is that because some of those people they were happy in their country near even when they didn't have much money, but it was the country it was their place of birth and so to suspect them or the mexican nea
its whatever is going on right now is really unacceptable. You know where we are witnessing in all fascistic attitude towards other human beings. You know women, men and children. You know you, it's like you. The stamp on them as they are criminals and even the language you use. I remember hearing those language before a genocide in young, wonder all the nazi genocide. You know, because that is the first thing you the first step you take when you want to kill an enemy, you stop giving him names and then those names transformed itself into an sick name and once they are at that
page, you know from bad andres. The next step is to say they are, you know, rats right and then you can kill rights yeah. You know that this type of of a words using the rhetoric of that this is a rhetoric of of genocide does cite. I don't think we would get to that point here in this country, because, first of all there is resistance, and just and solutions, but still the mind set its can do a lot of damage with its fine, and you know that you in the film there. There is a moment where you know Baldwin is talking about. You know what people you know are reacting to it. Hate is, is something in their own mind? Yes, it's not the real, it's not the person, it's not the reality. It is the need to have that
It is a construction in their own minds. Yes, because you don't, I and, like you said in the film you know I I grew up. I I never realized that you know what does it means black yeah know you don't wake up and look at you and say: I'm black, you know you just are human I you know you go to school, you have friends, you have you. I had friends of multiple color, multiple nationality, but in all its now the criteria I used to have friends are not of your friend because we hit it together and we have something in common, but it's it's It cannot be all the color of skins right. So when you our working on I'm not your negro, this a decade of work, because it seems like some of the thoughts you're talking about you know. just what was the moment where you're like this is then the man whose work? in life that I can run these. You feelings I have through well-
it's? I was very lucky to have read baldwin when I was seventeen or eighteen, so very early age, and when you I can see a problem from the distance. You always have a better position or you know, because you're not totally in the you know, anger of that moment. All please write the same thing, Baldwin had you know going to paris for him was you know he understood his country better from the perspective of being in paris and in paris He understood that song. The people were looking at him first, as in them an american and then as a black person, because embarrass you had in a back american, but you had black african young black, carry ban people and for french person they are not cool. They are not the same yeah. So when you come as an american suddenly you know you all somebody, they see you as an american like
see Hemingway as an american right The idea is not you know you are back at me, so it's it's more You know complex than that being elsewhere. Give you as it's like. You are on the top of the mountain. You can look down and have a bigger picture of whatever is going, and you can see the complexity and he you some structure and you are able to see that you're living all these places simultaneous attitude. So when I read balding devote time it it was. He just blew my mind because Secondly, what I had felt intuitively in my seven in eighteen year, old bran. Was suddenly very structural, very unrealistic and very poetic from baldwin. I was he was explaining to me what I felt intuitively, but could not really express what was the first thing. You read
the defiant next time I heard it was there. You know that book was important and and really because he Baldwin did once saying is that he just said. This is why I am I took a stand and then the problem is you, We need to find your your place. I know who I am. I know where I belong so and I dont let you define who I am and in this particular
I d because it's a letter to his nephew and is explaining to his nephew, who is the nephew and in what world ears and what he will have to confront all his life, but he's telling him. Yes, it's going to be hard, but don't forget you are a human being and don't let people define who you are and you're going to live through. The thing that you can't imagine that are all not have you know doesn't make sense, but you need to keep your sanity and understand that it's a particular society that that is like that You have a particular history and you need to know at every moment who you are and face that society right into foamy says they. History is not the past the present exactly because you you were brought here by it exactly and then you need to confront it every day we are the product of our history and and
also said that all of us we share that same history. There is no a black, story and white history. This is the history of america and we need to face our respective role in that history and we need to take responsibility for all rules. All risk did roles. That's the only way, the only all that we can take to solve all our problems and to construct a future for both of us. So when you say takes ten years, because I noticed that the structure of the film you it's a yards, its thoughtful and It's it's very deliberate, your constant going up against you know, mediated images, air or fictional images through film television of of the black person, The white person in this country, because film and television yo dictate somehow
and and and a kind of structure are misrepresented, in rehab. Why? Because film and images or ideological you know, grounded yeah, there did not innocent. Randal anything you watch on tv or under a theatrical data screen is full of very particularly its or image of a society or prejudice. You know it defines who you are. It defines who wins Ah, you know what is the interaction between men and women? How do you children, how do you treat rape except her eye? All do treaty violence here, so a film Although you know transporting all of that, and but most of us, don't know how to read those different layers right. We take it for granted right.
And james borrowing read it and, of course, the new jail, probably not only read it, but he deconstruct that beer at what film is yeah. That's a he's, giving us a really lesson of the construction of what images are in the particular when, as a black person, that you don't see your images on this I mean you know you don't see yourself as a real person on the screen. Now he had its have changed you can see in a real great black characters in you and movies and john series, who have been very good at that recently, but he'll, you know the whole. Ideology package that goes through film and not forget. American cinema is the dominant cinema throughout the world, I grew up even in haiti in from yale to eight
I american film, it'll make africa. Nor congolese friends they also seem saw the same a john wayne, western sure or toss visa We knew as you boys that this is not Italy reality because listen, diet, white guy killings, You know all the engine somehow this is somehow areas by the way we could be the engines story here? You need early on and a year, and then I remember very vividly the first time you started to see black characters, in hollywood movies, and you could basically time at how many minutes the black character would get killed right. Yeah know, like you know, you know the first ten fifteen minutes, the guy who's going to get killed right and then it took longer. As you know, as as time passed, you know you you had black character, who survived the whole movie in and could even be in
apprehending. That's that's change just say so. The movie is like the the half finished or not even half finished book. Remember this house is about him. about you. How long does, where notes by the way is not- and I have in the danish manuscript- it's really notes thirty pages of notes that he that somehow try to summarize what he wanted to do was. Going to be, and so he's now like this is in the late seventy. So he you know, he's written many many books, and this any feel that this is something that's been you at the core of his soul. What what do you feel that he was working too? Well it? It was a very complicated and painful process for him. He knew you not to go back in writing. That book means
I would have to go back to the south and meet merrily everts and meet the widow of malcolm x and meet the children who are no longer children, etc. Yeah, that's that's for me that that gave me the story. The, as is the story in what it meant for that man to go back that journey and saw it gave me the upward. Did you go back to that roadie myself and to find everything you have written about it was that you draw from a lot of resources. Yes, yes, that, of course the film is is full of different sources. One of the major sources was a book called. The David finds work where it, which is a collection Jill Baldwin S is on film yeah he's one of the major film critic of this country, because not only here, he could review films and books by the way, but also-
Well, he he did it in a way where he could he delivers. You also the instrument of analysis he didn't just make. You know, like usual, critics made later a very realistic critic, but he gives you the his story, perspective right? He gave you the ideological perspective and the political one. What does it means you know when he he may he writer critics about the different ones in the film with a tony curtis sidney poitier, you know being chain, he used it to explain what he calls. You know the source of the white men, the hate and the soul. of the black men hate any compared does to hate right, so he goes into a very society analysis. credit are using the right arm, and- and so this is profound- and so that's why those those s is also Strong, they are much more than just field. Is right there completely
intellectual, investigate exec, well, that what that that that was the throughout the film your you that you start with very current footage. I imagine from ferguson TAT almost presented you no problems exist. this is not the past, and then you know you go into the heroes section. you are, after a little, you know, establishing in eno in echo's right into phil, yeah into the idea that in also into the three men you're about and how he was introduced to film images and to to the absence of his own images on that screen. Absent of the image of his father right on this. right and then in, but then that evolves to that point, where the only one that he could maybe accept as a real black character was, The custodian in that film I dont know what the film was with it. Any talks poetically about the fear and his face in that
I recommend somehow that was right well, that that that has the death, well, that that exactly that, I think what a lot of minorities, blacks and and also women. You know we had to fight and all real self in films sometimes in just a small pieces piece of the film here, some that the case of baldwin that was this face. You know that The way you would experience your own narrative in those film is like almost like stealing an image or stealing a scene from the whole movie and tried to make that peace, yours right, hamburger, the profound thing about that moment in specially at that time after you know, he's moved through these black and white silent phil. uncle Tom S, cabin and then the sort of the dancing a joke. Crawford is being so an indicator that you know. People seem to have fun and he had not put a white onto it.
Tat moment in that film. That connected with him was a moment of fear. Just terror. you have that man and he was like that. That seems because it's a terror he have seen dear. He have seen people ill, for four young boy too, you know something that many young kids in the south have seen? Is that an incredibly painful moment where your father or your uncle or who have authority upon you and who is raising you and suddenly in the face of violence from outside, has to behave like a little boy himself and when you witness that it's very hard to you know to feel that you're forty to be proud of your own father or to feel taken care of of fail, taking care of and it's this terror is is, is
for my dick and in that kind of situation that happen in many ways and and and its bite away. It's it's not only a black thing to happen in a working, a uniform white workers situation where you know suddenly your father, who is editor or whatever, has has to bow in front of his boss and and and when you witness, does as a little boy it's traumatic yeah because it changes your view of your own. Pirates, smear and so Baldwin was always very good at at feeling. Those moments of seeing them in disguise I been there and also he was able to expand it. You know Intellectually- and I- and I think you know too, entire group of people that young that fit into the society that you are unable there's another theme throughout the film that your. How do you
become a man if you are treated like tat. Yes, yes, and an and we had at you. You know how, how can you concentrate Come on man. When you know every step can be a danger. Can you know cause you your life, and and we are still leaving that in the present genuine imagined the parents have do you know you you if your car, for the first time to your teenage boy or girl, he and the first thing you have to tell in case your stop by the police. Don't do anything stupid, don't move obey the order you university, giving him a recipe for terror near you not you getting your your children you're telling him. This is a dangerous world, so be careful Malta time near. Never let go near, and this is a terrible situation and
People forget that millions and millions of people go through that every day in this particular country and the second to heading was witness in that way. I found that that was very interesting. at the beginning. This is when he goes back to the states and he's going out he's going down south he's becoming involved in the civil rights movement and there's that that thing he said about the the line between of witness and perpetrator or an actor and actors very blurry, yes, but it is there, but he he what he met. Also by that is, you know there was a discussion at the time about you know it's either? You are an artist or you are and activists- and you had to choose, you know, and there were critics in particular the literary world who would say you know, but once you start to write about current each, do you not the rider anymore? You are journalists or you are,
somebody who who do news, but not art, Baldwin was torn between those two position and I think he found an extraordinary form to escape from that an end when you read is book today they are very precise. They are very analytic, but at the same time they are written in a language that is extraordinary. Yeah Baldwin invented a way to write about america and the written, the music, the words between preacher and and an ethnologist, and you know, and the way he he uses his humanism to describe a human being etc. This is exceptional. People tend to take it for granted at the time he invented a zhang. Basically, you know to people like toni, morrison or index
She told me she said you know he. He gave me a language that I thought that was so beautiful. I thought it was my own. We are an he speaks to that you, you know when he put just at the time that he put into putting a thought together and and seeing it all the way through in this very poetic powerful way is is, is never seen anything like it, and and eye in fact, get doing all these interviews since the film and I realize that you know I I started by saying You should read baldwin and then I took no. In fact, you should study baldwin, We were like two in the sense of euros. Bible study yeah, like you, take a paragraph in the bible and yet you speak about it and you have a whole philosophical discussion. That's the way we need to deal with Bobby because it saw reach
we sentence. I remember- I remembered the books, I started working on a project. I went back in may, library and an found, my old baldwin books that I have every where I live and and then I realized that almost everything was underlined, the first do age. You they're playing your lie. Yes, yes, that's how hopeless How much that happen? You don't you read than any other book you that there is one place where you have a few. Not is right at but baldwin Who can underline the whole book here and then sometimes happens over years? Oh yeah, the glass different colors eggs. actually yeah exactly well. I I that's why I went back to it because you know I recently in the last six months I have not read a lot of baldwin, but somebody sent me the clip of that debate at oxford You know I've never seen it before, and you know I've things that I have to go back and re read over and over again, and I will that I watched him sort of spain
heinous regenerate these incredibly expire. seven well thought out argument around race and I was like why? What is that mind? no and I had to watch it three times just you, because you can't not really it's like other guy ike I need to understand that really are listened to her again acting on so many levels, and you don't have time to recover right now, like he's heating, yet again, again and again, and he did that all the time, even on those cavity interviews, even when he was just saying something that was relatively succinct, the depth of it and and how it's going to hit? You as the integrate into your own mind and soul is like. Why wait it's it's daunting and I, I think that what you did a great job in the in the film doing was that you know the way you laid things out of the examples you used from film tv, interviews. You know really only dated you, whence he was making and in
in engaged you visually in in examples of what was trying to be said. And in and sadly the there there is no conclusion the eager that While the conclusion somehow is, you know what he said that one point you know this is the reality I lay out the whole reality in front of you, there is no other way around now. The question of the future is your response. What do you do with that? You know he confront us with that. You know this. Is it does all the elements here. What do you do? Are you ready to take responsibility for that? You that one single history, we are part of this same history down not to differ history, and we have done several saying we are. We were actors in it saw and
That's why? For me, meat, the movie is about now is situation? What do we do it? We cannot pretend to be innocent We are not in the innocent time anymore. We know all we need Whoever all are we all black or white or chinese? Eighty of american women, we know our history. If, if we don't, That's the other line. We are moral monster, because we cannot pretend to doesn't seventeen that we still do not know how the world is run, that we do not know all history, that we don't know that this country was built unto genocide and that we need to deal with it. It's not about punishment is not about rate rip reparation it's about knowing because knowing is already is the beginning of change, knowing in moral terms and in more terms and also in reality, you knowing the facts right, knowing the numbers
when you say: let's make America wait again. What does it means in that sentence alone? There are at least twenty mistakes. Twenty mistakes and, of course you don't have the time to reboot every single piece of that phrase, which doesn't make sense, which is idiotic and and the manifest of ignorance- and only that of ignorance, but takes you for an ignore it and that's terrible to doesn't say anti to be able to say a phrase like that is to array the history of america and the end, France america throughout the world in bad good times? You know what does it means? It means nothing. So it's important to to come back to reality. Not reality shows right, but to come back to,
reality, and I think Baldwin, that's the strength of baldwin is due to make us face that reality and, and he speak to each one of us. That's that's what I've seen those last two months with with going on the road with the film is that the audience wetter? black or white you are confronted with yourself, I think all we yeah talks to you directly in a very friendly but direct way. He doesn't unto god and took a you. he doesn't accuse you of anything. It tells you. This is the element. Yeah pick your side, yet, where are you on the spectrum of ignorance exact exactly also you're wearing a white. What have you said yourself that comforts you into thinking that you're doing enough? Exactly? Yes, cassettes, the that's it you know you ve got. Eight and you ve, got away to compartmentalize at and decide it's, not you and
got this whole other thing, which is I can now like yeah, I'm not that way so that what's the next step, You know, I I you know, I love all people you know is by the way. That was the daunting thing for me. Is that, like you know, he is any What are you doing enough in these moments in any what it's taken? who the hell knows what's going to happen here, but you are right, People certainly walked a fuck up. Well, that's the reality. We somehow we we went in a sort of intellectual lethargy in all I call it wants. An end of you is that the justification of the mines is like we got lazy knows in or even after the civil rights movement, where you know we built monument for Martin luther. king and not for Malcolm X, bite away here, but
and then like everything, is solve and and when we take the numbers, that's a sink. When you come back to reality, you take any numbers, you know the amount of people in prison, the amount of you know young, black or latino kids who grow up without parents and why the drugs numbers etc. Are why all you know drugs that black or poor people take is hit more, you know, gravely then yeah, you know the white or middle class. A mere drugs, are not all those things you know take any type of numbers and statistic: the reality will hit you hon also there is a discussion of class that never happened to you. second, that caused the big elephant in the room, because you have this.
You know you certainly have drug epidemics now that that yo r, somewhat systemically, hitting all types of people. And you know that that yet the elephant in the room, while the inequality is coming, We are now in a time of extreme concentration of wealth. in the hands of a minority mere and we just hand and power to deck minority, and we just accept that and we have an incredible concentration of poverty in this country, the richest country, on earth and you know I. I will always wonder you know. How do people react if you put those numbers in front of them, you know, don't you take and any consequence
out of that. You know that those on the numbers that oxfam have published a few weeks ago, you know saying that eight individual, not eight per cent of the puppet, eight persons on more or as much as forty percent of the pool population of the population of this country. Eight individuals, you're talking trillions, yeah How does that happen, and this has consequences to everybody? You know to the way the press work in all the concentration of the press that the few billion as on all the press meanings all the information we get in and families or not that free. You know they are less free than there were forty years ago and it's it's a whole chain of consequence here. You know and of brainwash was
oh yeah, and people. You know when you push consumption to people. You know you push you know and on all level consumption reality shows consumption of electronics in your life consumption of everything you can just make a call phone call and get it to your eyes. You can order pizza, you can order. So basically it create a generation of people on call couch, even your friend, yeah yeah. I mean electronically and bottom baldwin sort of four year. He said that about tv is, is the narcotic yeah has a narcotic effect exactly? He said, dent attainment the three remind him of the use of narcotic, and he wrote that fifty years ago, at a time where there there were only three national network, so imagine what it met today. That means you could see those ethic and impact fifty years ago. He could
He could yes, and, and- and you imagine where we are today- that's the fascinating thing too is that this a lot of this stuff. He said that long ago, Annie, is exactly, so the same, and a and and also more sophisticated some ways in a lot of analysis of it. Currently he saw the truth yeah in one aspect, because it's it's a matter of education as well and but also even when you went to college, it's it's hard for you sometimes to to to seek through what happening in the simple now I saw the time when television and radio station became very partisan and where now even network like cn, and would have you know the guy from let the guy from the why the right and then the jewelry in the middle he's. Not that you know
not taking any side anymore. There is as if there is no truth right, you know just evolve. edition all have the same quality. So that's what leads us today to have one side, a scientist who work forty, of his life on climate change. and on the other side, you have some guys who, decided that crime and should don't exist and those two position all consider it equal rights that's where we are today. You know- and that's that's just incredible in what gets lost there is the truth and the urgency of what is really happening, get what we don't. We don't know Now people are putting in doubt everything. Nobody has credibility, in fact the, The loud ass you are, the most
credible your apart and I think that's like in in terms of the film when it comes around to what we're talking about now in this sort of. You know right The whole of hopelessness and panic, you can into around it, which I experienced daily. that baldwin brings it back to a human. and it shows you that you can do something about it. That's the thing in my I see people say the film gives them energy, because they just realized. Well, I can understand that, and I can do something about it is just about me deciding to give a response to that, because, on the bigger picture it simple its its clear. There is no confusion. You know we are not egypt, we're not ignorance. There is.
Way to understand. What's going on now, you know you just step back a little bit and watch the bigger picture, and that's what Baldwin gave us yeah. He give hazard fifty years picture and where we say, oh, my god, this is what in fact that's where we are, and then you can react because it it seems like this huge mountain of ignorance in front of you in one. How do you stop a discussion when you have to again? I don't want to court or or current president or you don't make america great again, yeah it'll you at some. You know you don't need to go into that too.
Explain it. You just reject you, you you, you don't lose your time to go into that kind of discussion. So that's what baldwin gives you. You know step back, you know, and and and then you can see what makes sense and what doesn't make sense and don't lose your time on the stuff that you're being bombarded with and that make no sense. You know and that's big bottle all day. You know the amount of tweet of facebook of of reality shows in all Why would I and those in the crazy daily life of a group of men or women, buying stuff buying merchandise? My life cannot be that as a human being? It's not about you know. How many cause I have or how many new clothes I have all in harmony,
in all new house, I rebuild all that yeah, it's like just material to fool your brain, and it takes space. He just stick bait. There was a scandal in france a few years back where the the head of the french biggest private t v, t f one in an interview. He just said you know my job is to bring a films and shows on on my channel so that you don't need to fake any more but you just need to buy coca cola. He said it plainly, he's being honest and he's being honest, he was not even cynical yeah, you know and and that it's working it's working, your and out, even deeper than that. It's like, and now it's about not just buying coca cola. It's about you buying an ideology that you can
uses reality again. It's it's isn't like Baldwin said that it's it's so it's giving. what you need to hate in your head, without having going outside- Like the other thing, I start here with he said people whose they care, don't they care about their there, their safety and their profits. Exactly that's big. that's that's a right they're, a marxist analysis of of all society. You know that which is a society built on profit and, and that means profit invade Every place in your life in your active in action, and that one line that the young marks wrote. You know like in the capitalist society. Even you, men relationship becomes a relationship of merchandise.
And when you look at your own relationship, sometimes where you take decisions because of merchandise because of money or because of interest. This is what we have become So we ve lost our emotional, more and psychological compass. And more and more because we just don't have the space anymore I'll be right taken, we all know how many times we can have the proper time to sit and read a book or this. time, whether the people to do you just did exactly well. Yes, it was real that this is something I miss. You know in the media to really be sitting with a real person and have a convict asian without having to cut your thoughts right? Because we are complex? We are today leaving in a very complex society the so there is no strict and
So you know I like when somebody they asked you ok Tell me your life. In a nutshell, we know my life cannot be reduced in a nutshell. That's that's interesting because as complex as it is in as that is driven by a you know, guiding people either for profit we're for your brainwashing or for competing allusions is that you know people. I think this is wonderful, the byproducts it I'd they get overwhelmed, and needed simplified. Exactly and it's not simple, it's not that it's never. Life is not set bright, but people together talking together. You know like that, she's my biggest fear now is that the polarization is so profound that you how how how do we do with its people? What do we do now, but that that's? Why baldwin you know, give us the chance to set back a little bit take another bit of distance sea. It is terrible
don't see you know what happened in the last election, see what has been happening the last fifty years, and then you will understand why you are now the out. If you explain donald trump by just explained the campaign, you will not understand anything, but if you understand that donald trump came way back from reagan sure that when they start their deregulating when they start breaking the union's esoteric sidra? This is what brought us here and there have been ordered donald trump throughout the world it's, not a new model. You know there was a guy named Berlusconi in italy here. That is the perfect in a copy of the neutral billionaires authoritarian,
a lot of ignorance, hater divided and they finally got rid of him and it took times he did a lot of damage. But ITALY have you no king, act to a better place today, so we shouldn't be afraid of anything. You know we all this country, so the most difficult part is to sit down with the other one and and have you know a conversation and decide that we can change a lot of things together and Of course, that's not a simple process down nor recipe. There are no short cut, and this is something that will
as and when baldwin gives you the whole list of what it took to organize the civil rights movement. You know it was about learning, it was about sitting together and have meetings in what about raising money. It was about fighting allies. You know everybody was in the movement, not just black. You had the unions, you had duke or churches, you have the jewish organizations, you have the youth of any egg of organizations and dit Dit was a huge coalition, and he took timed. It took passions, not only anger and that something that today we we voice or anger. But then what do we do
and also now like because of these disembodied voices of persistent psychic terror. You know, through the through platforms that are disengaged from human beings in a way and are redundant in their hate You know how one there was a moment in the film where he talks about the exhaustion that you know you. You have to figure out a way to continue fighting, so you don't get exhausted exactly exactly because they get too tired. They get you tie up here, and so the question is always: how do I put my energy and what is fundamentally important and not the side battle and because they are presenting to us an upside down world, so to put it in the right order? It takes a lot of energy and you need or everything to you know, and so that's the it makes
the bali complicated situation now, because at some point you need to give a response to those daily attacks in all. You need to show that these information, you need to prove that those numbers are not the real numbers etc, and but at the same time you have to find a space to step back a little bit and to see the bigger picture and two strategies on the middle and long term, write another whether I should be, but now because of these sort of echo chambers in bubbles that you know the unit vermeer you too, to to figure out the sum Is it true, a real It may not have any bearing you know on the people that that fundamentally see the country as a different thing almost entirely, then we may yeah, but what does it mean? It means that we need to talk with them. I know we need to
I them, because it's not about good or bad people niner. You know people react to do whatever going through an end, their economical situation in this predetermined a lot. You know I don't want to quote mocks again, but this is weighed come from you decide. You know your conscience is different. If you have a job or if you don't have a job and it will determine anything, you will do in the coming years. and it include also some time that you don't get the right information. Why you lost your job so, when you have populists like donald trump coming and say do is this bad woman that made you lose your job. You know you're not always have the time to go and find out. Yet it satisfies in anger, of course, of course, so we all-
its human. You know to react to whatever you feel it makes sense to you and it's simple. You know, as you say before, you know why I like simplicity, although our world is complex, mirror you know, and so it's about how do we get? You know you know how we we go away from this head discourse and to I too understand why a worker who sometimes was in the union, and a very progressive union suddenly feel the anger to just or to react to his anger without thanking further and to say well this I who is selling me the car he's telling me this is the best car ever and yet. Why wouldn't I take a chance because nobody else is even
me that he, and also they last belief in all institutions, physical corruption and an just know, generations of of unexplainable. But yet the explanation is there here, you know a loss of jobs, poverty, you eat, you know what a surprise was a bill. And I think there is one thing: what what we call the intelligence, meaning you know, scholars, universities, schools and they they need to find the way back to these people as well. You know there was a time when there was big change in society and university were under on the forefront. Teachers were on the forefront, right, scholars were in the forefront, and we lost that bottle teachers, And- and I know you- I thought that- and why you I taught in many other universities- the world and I see how academia have you know,
Another bubble near interrelated them had a letter themselves, and you know you you, research about the most crazy- and you know, you're really unused type of subject new in our universe or anyone say, let's take to the streets and do some further reading. Yet exactly exactly and there time where you know when you remember the vietnam war resistance and all that you know, Teachers were in the street with you here and then you would go back in class and discuss what is your society at the moment? The do we take a stand in the way except their dry? No here that there is a concerted effort to too to take away that dial. Yes and now it's a lot easier to take away. Dialogue. They all it takes. Is one student to go like that guy's bad
This is anti american. It's like that's where the language is going again, and there is one aspect we forgot of. Why is it like this? Is there have been a tremendous and fred utilization of of those institutions as well in a when the university started to make money yeah in order not to disappear because state funding, where you know take away vietnam? Now they became businesses and now, as a professor or teacher, you know it was about. You know, I should get tenure because then economically, I'm safe right, but it's a way to fright. Your lies, also the intelligence to make them scare of losing their job and is the same for journalists as well in a lot of
of the intelligentsia had to care for themselves, first mere taking less risk and then you can intimidate their safe. The rocks at the safety and uproar- that's the unfortunately, the the human attitude in capitalism. In I it's a very that's the odyssey its it is. I recall a way of life in a capital is very specific. It's very clearly debtor my the beginning of the industrial revolution that change it. The the way people communicate the way. You know you get jobs. The way you get paid. You know everything is depending on that and and week cannot, you know, go out of it if we don't understand weight cubs from well. Thank you for talking to me. Thank you for inviting It was a great conversation. I was it's rare, it's it's too rare to have that kind of exchange. Our.
And I appreciate it and the movie is, is stunning and you gotta watch it a couple of times. Thank you very much I'll catch you. amazing conversation with different. scope in town than a lot. I had, but also very kind of my boy and powerful to me don't play some slightly, maybe savage, guitar regular. I don't know I don't have. A plan redundant is probably redundant in terms of, What I've played in this space before it I
Why in the boomer lives.
Transcript generated on 2022-09-03.