MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- "I Am Not Your Negro" is an examination of labels and race in America, with most of the lines taken from an unfinished book by author James Baldwin and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. The Oscar-nominated documentary is produced in part by the Independent Television Service.
ITVS content director Noland Walker said his group advised director Raoul Peck and gave him more than a quarter of his budget. Walker is a Memphis native.
“He was searching for meaning, who he was in the world, for answers why the world was the way it was,” Walker said.
Walker moved from Chicago to Memphis in the mid-1970s at the age of 9 when his father took a job as president of Lemoyne-Owen College.
He attended Central High School and went to church at Beulah Baptist in Orange Mound.
Walker learned quickly what many in Memphis still know; at it's hear, it's a small town.
WREG reached Walker at his office in California, but he said those lessons from home stayed with him.
“The city was still trying to figure out who it was and what going to be for post-segregation era,” Walker said. “All the sudden I felt connected to a community both in large and small ways that expected something of me.”
Walker has worked on documentaries for nearly 30 years, helping produce films for PBS including Frontline and the Independent Lens series.
He said his early days in Memphis gave him a spark for that work.
“The best storytellers I know live in Memphis, Tennessee,” he said.
I Am Not Your Negro is up against four other films, all getting a lot of praise.
“Documentary film is certainly in a golden age,” he said.
But who does he thinks is going to take home the award?
“I was going to pick O.J. and Ezra Edelman and what he did but over the last 3 weeks since the theatrical release, I don’t know, it might be a good night for James Baldwin!” he said.
I Am Not Your Negro is playing in theaters at Malco Paradiso and Studio on the Square.