Williams then doubles back from that opening frame, retracing how slavery shifted from a color-blind system that included Slavs, before eventually becoming a practice primarily used to put Africans in captivity.
His film compares favorably with Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro” as a work interested in the falsities that have informed the act of historiography, carried out by white people through mass media and political rhetoric that pitches Black people as dangerous, primitive, and hypersexual. Williams uses the lineage of Black women as artists, poets, and researchers as his throughline and assembles an array of notable historians, thinkers, and academics like Angela Davis, Iman Perry, Racquel J. Gates, and more to look behind the Black image.
Williams Smarty notes how these stereotypes inform white perspectives and taint Black cultural mores. In back-to-back clips, both Barack Obama and Don Lemon demand that Black men pull up their pants.
For some, this won’t be entirely new. Other documentaries as recent as “I Am Not Your Negro,” “Amend: The Fight for America,” and “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America” have all come at the same history from different angles. But the packaging of “Stamped from the Beginning” makes it stand apart. Rather than opting for a staid visual and sonic language, Williams’ film utilizes captivating animation, deep rhythms and beats, and needle drops like “Fight the Power” to imbue his interrogation with a sense of modernity. Some might push back against making a bleak record so vibrant, flashy, and active, but “Stamped from the Beginning” understands that history is often written with lightning.
“They Shot the Piano Player,” a quirky animated mystery from Spanish auteurs Javier Mariscal and Fernando Trueba, is “Searching for Sugar Man” by way of “Waltz with Bashir.”
This entrancing and kinetic doc opens in New York City in 2009, with author Jeff Harris (voiced by Jeff Goldblum) at Strand Bookstore, telling the story behind his latest work, a novel about Tenorio Jr., a Brazilian piano virtuoso who, in March of 1976, was kidnapped and murdered at the age of 35 in Argentina under the reign of Isabelita Perón. While based on real events, the film hews closer to docufiction than being a straight-up documentary.