Stamped from the Beginning (2023)

Stamped from the Beginning (2023)

The comprehensive history of anti-Black racism, now on the small screen

The Very Best

8.0

Movie

United States of America
English
Animation, Documentary
2023
ROGER ROSS WILLIAMS
Alexa Rachelle Jennings, Angela Davis, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
92 min

TLDR

This documentary is structured so excellently, it’s easy to understand even for people living under a rock.

What it's about

Before the transatlantic slave trade, the people of Africa weren’t seen as one race – they were from different locations in the continent, seen as part of different tribes, different cultures, different religions. This documentary brings the titular book to screen, chronicling how anti-Black racist ideas started and developed during the course of American history.

The take

There’s no easy way to talk about racism – it’s a nebulous set of ideas that shift and change and manifests in numerous ways that many people can’t even identify as racism because of how prevalent it is. But Dr. Ibram X. Kendi has been able to write down a fairly comprehensive narrative that outlines key historical moments that shaped the world’s concept of race and Blackness, and this narrative is brought to the screen through vivid animations and strategic sequencing by director Roger Ross Williams in new Netflix release Stamped from the Beginning. It’s a provocative, passionate investigation, and it’s one that should be required viewing.

What stands out

As a documentary, Stamped from the Beginning takes a fairly standard approach in depicting its subject matter – old footage, title cards, helpful graphics, interviews with experts in the field – but the way the show is structured makes the book’s ideas feel layered and comprehensible. As the book’s author Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and other interviewees talk about historical events, these narrations are intercut with footage from recent times that point out how these ideas still remain the same, even if America knows better, even when most people are already aware that these ideas only come from people trying to maintain their power.

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