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11-03-2022

New: Silences, History, and The Fire Next Time: A Reading of Raoul Peck’s Exterminate All The Brutes

By Manar Ellethy

“The fact that US slavery has both officially ended and yet continues in many complex forms of institutionalized racism, makes its representation particularly burdensome. […] As writer James Baldwin says, ‘there is scarcely any hope for the American dream because people who are denied participation in it, by their very presence will wreck it.’ The facts are staring us in the face.”
— Raoul Peck [1]

It would not be an exaggeration to argue that Raoul Peck is one of the most prolific storytellers of our time. Through his ability to produce compelling socio-political commentaries in his works paired with striking visual imagery, dialogue, and experimentation, his contribution to black documentary filmmaking has been self-evident. Lost in the thousands of columns and reviews about his works are the meanings created in Peck’s storytelling that go beyond the conventional summarization of his films as ‘important’, ‘timely’, or ‘eye-opening’. It is certainly true that his works convey these meanings, yet one must see a deeper strength that lies in the way his films interweave complex political and cultural themes, avenues for discussion, self-exploration, and vicarious emotions, begging for more than to be simply deemed ‘relevant’. In his new HBO documentary series Exterminate All the Brutes (2021), Peck reflects on the history of colonization, exploitation, and their partner in crime, white supremacy, along with their contemporary “ghosts” on American, European, and African grounds [1]. As Samuel L. Jackson utters the words of James Baldwin in Peck’s earlier film, I Am Not Your Negro (2016), Exterminate All the Brutes does not present “a pretty story” [2].

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