Stamped from the Beginning is a documentary that uses innovative animation and expert insights to trace the origins and evolution of racist ideas in America, from the colonial era to the present day. Based on the book by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, the documentary features interviews with Angela Davis, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, and more luminaries, who share their perspectives on the impact of racism on American society and culture.
Stamped from the Beginning is not only a history lesson but also a call to action. It invites the viewers to examine their own assumptions and biases and to join the ongoing fight against racism and discrimination. It is a powerful and provocative documentary that challenges the viewers to rethink what they know about race and racism in America.
Stamped from the Beginning begins with a prologue that introduces the concept of “stamped” and “unstamped” people, based on the idea that race is a social construct that assigns value and hierarchy to different groups of people. The documentary then proceeds to the first chapter, which focuses on Cotton Mather, a Puritan minister who was one of the first to propagate the idea that black people were cursed by God and inferior to white people. The documentary shows how Mather’s writings influenced the development of slavery and racism in colonial America.
The second chapter shifts to Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States and the author of the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed that “all men are created equal”. The documentary exposes the contradiction between Jefferson’s ideals and his actions, as he owned hundreds of slaves and fathered children with one of them, Sally Hemings. The documentary also explores how Jefferson’s views on race and slavery influenced the formation of the nation and its institutions.
The fifth and final chapter focuses on Angela Davis, a political activist, scholar, and icon of the Black Power movement. The documentary chronicles Davis’s involvement in the struggle for racial justice and social change and her persecution by the state for her radical views and actions. The documentary also highlights Davis’s influence on the contemporary movements for black liberation and human rights, such as Black Lives Matter and Me Too.
The documentary ends with an epilogue that summarizes the main themes and messages of the documentary and urges the viewers to join the fight against racism and discrimination in all its forms.
Stamped from the Beginning is a documentary that succeeds in delivering a comprehensive and compelling account of the history of racist ideas in America. It is based on solid and rigorous research and draws from a variety of sources and perspectives. It is also visually appealing and engaging, using animation, archival footage, photographs, music, and narration to create a captivating and immersive experience.
The documentary does a great job of highlighting the complexity and diversity of racist ideas and their manifestations and showing how they have evolved and adapted over time and across different contexts. It also does a great job of showcasing the resistance and resilience of black people and their allies and celebrating their achievements and contributions to American society and culture.
The documentary is not without its flaws, however. One of the main criticisms that can be made is that it is too ambitious and too broad in its scope, trying to cover too much ground in a limited time. As a result, some of the topics and issues are not explored in enough depth and detail, and some of the nuances and contradictions are glossed over or omitted. For example, the documentary does not address the role of other racial and ethnic groups, such as Native Americans, Latinos, Asians, and immigrants, in the history of racism and resistance in America. It also does not address the intersections of race with other forms of oppression, such as class, gender, sexuality, and religion.
Stamped from the Beginning is a documentary that deserves to be watched and discussed by anyone interested in learning more about the history and impact of racist ideas in America. It is a powerful and provocative documentary that challenges the viewers to rethink what they know about race and racism in America, and to join the ongoing fight against racism and discrimination. It is not the final word on the subject, but rather a starting point for further inquiry and dialogue.
Final Score – [7/10]
Reviewed by - Arpita Mondal
Publisher at Midgard Times
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