Tomorrow, Sophomores from across CPS are invited to go to Missouri Theater on Friday for a special showing of Raoul Peck’s new documentary I Am Not Your Negro. The film is being shown as a part of True/False, Columbia’s annual documentary film festival that garners national attention.
The film chosen this year deals with race issues as described by author James Baldwin. The movie has already received a large amount of praise which includes being up for Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Academy Awards, but locally there are some fears that the film may not be best suited for the young audience. CPS media director Joseph Richter says that district administrators watched the film last week and were immediately worried that some students wouldn’t be mature enough for the documentary.
“After seeing the film initially there was some concern that students would feel angry or freaked out by the films main issues,” Richter said. “We always want to make sure that students from all backgrounds feel welcome when they come to any kind of school sponsored event.”
Administration had long talks about whether or not the film should be shown, but in the end it was decided that students that wanted to attend should be able to. Some students have already decided that they will not be attending the event, however, like sophomore Andy McKay. McKay said that both he and his parents felt that the film was too obscene in its imagery and take on racial issues.
“Me and my parents just decided that the film wasn’t really something that I wanted to see so they excused me from school,” McKay said. “Honestly, we just saw the film as rather problematic in its portrayal of race issues and I didn’t want to be a part of it.”
Even with the small amount of backlash, there has still been outspoken teachers who have pushed for all of their students to attend and learn from the film. One is Kelley Wittenborn who said she has told her students that the experience will be beneficial one.
“I know me and all the other teachers have really pushed for students to come and I would say that pretty much all of them are,” Wittenborn said. “I really feel that a film like this one will open our students minds to something that they haven’t seen before because now they’re going to see how historically race problems have always been like they are now.”
There is still fear that some students at the showing of the film may become disrespectful, but Richter says they expect most students will enjoy the film and True/False.
“We’re still really excited to continue our partnership with True/False,” Richter said. “I’m sure that the students will really see this as what it was meant to be which is a way to experience a viewpoint that they may not see any other way.”
If you’re seeing “I Am Not Your Negro” tomorrow, what is your opinion on the controversy? Let us know below!