In his Stamped From The Beginning film review, Kevin Bourne calls the film a brutally honest look at anti-Black racism in America.
Hold. On. To. Your. Seats. Based on the book of the same name by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Stamped From the Beginning is a bold, edgy, brutally honest, and to some, controversial, look at the history of anti-Black racism in America, from slavery to the present.
The film opens with the loaded and intentionally unsettling question, “What’s wrong with Black people?”
Oscar-winning filmmaker Roger Ross goes on to explore a variety of topics, including the invention of Blackness, the invention of whiteness, and myths surrounding the hypersexuality of Black women, the criminality of Black men, and much more.
Depending on how melanated or non-melanated your skin is, the film sparks a range of emotions, from pride to anger and shame, as scholars and thinkers, including Ibram X. Kendi, Angela Davis, Elizabeth Hinton, Carol Anderson, Kellie Carter Jackson, and Lynae Vanee, provide a depth of knowledge and insight into anti-Black racism that we haven’t seen before.
This is the magic of the film. Although the experts do express emotion at times, including a little humor, the tone is less angry and more authoritative. This is a well-researched and well-articulated film presented in a way that’s accessible and digestible. It feels modern and “hip-hop”, while also feeling personal.
It also highlights the groundbreaking work of poet Phyllis Wheatley, memoirist Harriet Jacobs, and journalist Ida B. Wells, while pulling back the covers on white savior narratives surrounding Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and abolitionists who have historically been seen as heroes. It also builds a case that white society is, in fact, uncivilized and not Black people, and points to how anti-Black narratives continue to have an impact today in the stereotyping of Black men and women in popular culture.
Stamped From The Beginning is an important and eye-opening film that should be seen by everyone everywhere as it challenges conventional thought on the relationship between Black people and America. In the end, the film rightly concludes that there is nothing, in fact, wrong with Black people.
SHIFTER editor and Senior Entertainment Reporter, Kevin Bourne, is a Toronto-based entertainment journalist focusing on Black music and film & TV. He was named one of 310 international voters for the 81st Golden Globe Awards by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and a Tomatometer-Approved Critic by Rotten Tomatoes.