Friday February 24, 2017

Raoul Peck brings James Baldwin's powerful gaze to the big screen

Haitian filmmaker and political activist Raoul Peck poses during a photo session at La Femis Studios on Jan. 20, 2017 in Paris.

Haitian filmmaker and political activist Raoul Peck poses during a photo session at La Femis Studios on Jan. 20, 2017 in Paris. (AFP/Getty Images)

Listen 21:58

James Baldwin changed Raoul Peck's life. 

After discovering the famous American author in his teens, Peck admits that it gave "structure to [his] thoughts and a new way of seeing the world." 

Peck has now taken those important words of Baldwin and transformed them into a documentary called I am Not Your Negro, which is up for an Oscar this year for best documentary feature. 

"The concept of the film was, how do I bring those powerful words to a new audience," Peck explains, noting that every word spoken in the film is taken from Baldwin himself and presented through archival footage or narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. "I almost had to invent a new form of filmmaking, of documentary to tell a story solely and uniquely through Baldwin's words.

"I didn't want anybody to interpret it, or for me to be the spokesperson for Baldwin [...] You can't escape Baldwin's gaze."

I am Not Your Negro is in theatres today.

— Produced by Jean Kim