Few documentaries have moved me like Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America has. It’s an unflinching breakdown of American history and an empathetic reach to those who have suffered through it. Lawyer Jeffery Robinson (who last appeared in 2020’s brilliant doc The Fight) guides us every step of the way.
Structured like An Inconvenient Truth, Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America alternates between a lecture and interviews hosted by Robinson . The interviews include guided tours with historians who understand the severity, and other people who have different interpretations of the current cultural scope. Robinson approaches each subject with open ears and an open heart, and addresses his lecture’s audience with the utmost engagement. The point of the lecture, other than to educate and inspire, is to support a discussion usually provoked by those wanting to expose deeply problematic and immoral American roots. With thorough research and formidable communication, Robinson does a fantastic job conveying how the country was built on slavery.
The interviews with those who have ignited a discussion online through viral videos (sometimes by accident) are shorter than expected, but provide a contemporary context that ties together the discouraging theme of “history repeating itself”. The more personal interviews (including intimate talks with family and friends) add a special connection between Robinson’s passion for the subject and the professionalism of Emily Kunstler and Sarah Kunstler’s filmmaking. It’s a delicate balancing act between the two sets of interviews, as the film brilliantly acknowledges past strife along with determination for a better future.
The Kunstlers, with the great benefit of Jeffery Robinson’s beautifully emotional approach to the material, have made a documentary that not only solidifies itself as critically fundamental viewing for this topic, but it’s one of the best examinations of humanity I’ve ever seen.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie