Writer James Baldwin’s unfinished book Remember This House gets a documentary three decades after his death, and it’s a powerful one.
Baldwin is seen in speeches he gave in the sixties, one of them on The Dick Cavett Show, and the civil right’s leader’s words prove absolutely prophetic in retrospect.
Director Raoul Peck’s Oscar nominated film uses Baldwin’s narration (effectively voiced by Samuel L. Jackson) to recount the stories and missions of Martin Luther King, Jr., Medgar Evers and Malcolm X, and how each man worked to overcome segregation and racial bigotry in the sixties. The historic Baldwin appearances, along with Jackson’s delivery of his words, make for a film that feels all too present. And that’s unfortunate, given that these words of hope for a better world were often delivered near fifty years ago.
Peck utilizes footage and photos of Rodney King, Trayvon Martin and more to illustrate that the struggle continues, and has entered a new era of difficulty. Hearing Baldwin’s words today makes it seem unfathomable that he died so long ago.
Given the current state of things, you would think these were the recitations of a man who just watched the latest news reports on CNN.