The lives of two great revolutionary thinkers and writers feature in this year’s Trinidad+Tobago Film Festival (ttff) as part of its programme of panorama films (world cinema), announced last week.
Among them is the much anticipated I Am Not Your Negro, by renowned Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck, based on an unfinished manuscript by American civil rights activist and writer, James Baldwin. Also carded to screen at the Festival, which runs from 19-26 September, is Neruda – loosely based on a period in the life of Chilean poet and communist politician, Pablo Neruda.
In Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, the words of writer James Baldwin (read by Samuel L Jackson), link the lives of three American civil rights activists — Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers, in a disturbingly topical indictment of racism and hatred in America.
The film takes as its starting point Baldwin’s manuscript, Remember This House, a moving, poetic and at times humorous memoir, that puts the spotlight on America’s history of irrational fear and denial of race inequality. Baldwin, who died in 1987, and whose disillusionment with the US led him to emigrate to Europe, saw America as steadfastly narrow-minded, with racism as the source of its emotional and moral poverty.
Neruda covers the roughly 13 months that the poet spent in hiding from political persecution, before escaping to Argentina. Pablo Neruda was a communist party politician in 1948, when then President Gabriel Gonzalez Videla betrayed his leftist roots and aligned himself with the US’s war on communism. In an instant Neruda lost his high-powered allies and was forced into hiding.