Raoul Peck's film based on James Baldwin's writings named best doc of the year
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association offered something of a split verdict on the top doc of the year.
On Sunday it awarded best documentary to I Am Not Your Negro, Raoul Peck's stunning film on American racism as elucidated in the trenchant writings of the late James Baldwin. That win interrupted a surge of momentum for Ezra Edeleman's mega-doc O.J.: Made in America, which swept a slew of previously-announced critics awards, including the New York Film Critics Circle and the Gotham Awards.
But O.J. was by no means shut out by the LAFCA. The group chose Edelman's 464-minute long film as runner-up for best documentary. And in a surprise, the LA critics awarded best editing to O.J.'s team of Bret Granato, Maya Mumma and Ben Sozanski. That award generally goes to a narrative (i.e. Hollywood) film, and indeed Tom Cross, editor of La La Land, was named runner-up.
I Am Not Your Negro, which won the audience award at the Toronto Film Festival, will be released theatrically in February. It became eligible for awards consideration for 2016 through a limited qualifying run.
James Baldwin is credited as the writer of the film, for good reason. It is based on his words, including letters and an unfinished book on three men he came to know before their assassinations: Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. The director hired Samuel L. Jackson to give voice to Baldwin's words, a decision that might sound unexpected -- given how distinctive Jackson's voice is. But the actor delves into the vocal role with a subtly that makes renders his "regular" voice unrecognizable.
The LA Film Critics Association will formally present its awards at a ceremony in mid-January.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.