National Head of School of Arts to discuss Oscar-nominated documentary
Published: Wednesday 20th September 2017
On Sunday 24 September, Head of the National School of Arts, Professor Michael Ondaatje, will be in conversation with former US Senator from Kansas, Donald Betts Jr, about ‘Race, Politics and Identity’ in the United States. After a public screening of Raoul Peck’s Oscar-nominated documentary ‘I Am Not Your Negro’, Ondaatje and Betts will appear in front of a live audience in Melbourne’s iconic Federation Square to discuss the themes and impact of the documentary, and wider issues of race politics and resistance from the civil rights era to the present day. The event is being coordinated by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI).
Awarded the Toronto Film Festival People’s Choice Award, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ is filmmaker Raoul Peck’s vision of a book project – ‘Remember this House’ – that the great black writer James Baldwin never finished. Baldwin’s book was to be a personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his friends, civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr, as well as a political appraisal of the power of ‘race’ in American life. Although on the face of it a documentary about America in the 1960s, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ brilliantly uses Baldwin’s insights – and narrator Samuel L. Jackson’s voice – to illuminate contemporary racial realities in twenty-first century America.
Professor Ondaatje and Senator Betts will draw on their experience and expertise in African American history and politics to shed further light on the film and to get to the heart of the racial past and present that it captures so powerfully. Professor Ondaatje said was delighted to have been invited to speak about the civil rights movement and racial equality at this event: ‘The civil rights movement was the greatest social justice movement in American history. Its leaders fought for human dignity and the common good, among other things. I am proud to work for a University that shares a commitment to these values and principles, and I always feel privileged to be able to contribute to public discussions in one of my research areas.