James Baldwin: From Another Place


Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

James Baldwin: From Another Place
"When he walks the streets of Istanbul, people stare at him and at the camera filming him. What, we wonder, are they seeing?"

Sedat Pakay’s James Baldwin: From Another Place (a highlight in the Revivals programme of the 59th New York Film Festival, screening with Wendell B Harris, Jr.’s Chameleon Street) couldn’t be more different from another documentary, showing Baldwin in another European city. Terrence Dixon’s Meeting the Man: James Baldwin In Paris, shot by Jack Hazan (whose film Rude Boy is in this year’s Revivals) was seen in last year’s Revivals section. In it, the hostility between subject and filmmaker is palpable. James Baldwin: From Another Place, on the other hand, rather resembles Dagmar Schulz’s portrait, Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984-1992, in its intimacy.

James Baldwin in Istanbul, where he lived at the time in 1973, seems far less on edge in Pakay’s short. Dressed only in white underpants, looking out of his window, before putting on a kimono, he notes “one sees better from a distance,” and says about being outside the US, “you can make comparisons from another place.” (The same sentiment is echoed by some of the kids in Futura, almost half a century of globalization later.) Baldwin sees himself as a witness, typewriter and pen are his weapons.

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When he walks the streets of Istanbul, people stare at him and at the camera filming him. What, we wonder, are they seeing? Baldwin tries to find out what the crowd of people on the square are looking at. Looking is key, curiosity pushes on, storms are always coming. You have to get through the next storm. Along the streets, he stops at a stall of one of the bouquinistes, Karl Marx Das Kapital is on display.

Back at his desk, Baldwin talks directly to the camera about privacy and pride. “I loved a few men and a few women,” he says, “and they loved me; that saved my life.” He ponders the unexpected nature of love and lines from a WH Auden poem may come to mind (“When it comes, will it come without warning …”). Love comes in “very strange packages,” says Baldwin. He reflects on the paranoia of American men and that he “arrived without antecedents.” Downstairs in the street, two bears are seen, one appears to be giving a friendly hug to a man.

Time to go back outside. He gets his boots shined and on a boat rides out past the old harbor, past wooden structures and a palace with gates. He has a coffee and again, a group of men stop and stare at this stranger from another place, who looks at home in their midst.

Reviewed on: 28 Sep 2021
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James Baldwin muses on race, the American fascination with sexuality and the generosity of the Turks.

Director: Sedat Pakay

Year: 1973

Runtime: 12 minutes

Country: Turkey


New York 2021

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