Equipped with keen intelligence and a big heart, lawyer Jeffery Robinson educates and challenges in equal measure, giving voice to the silenced and seeking acceptance of racist realities in pursuit of lasting change.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2021
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“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” — George Orwell, 1984
Based on former ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jeffery Robinson’s illuminating lecture on the history of US anti-Black racism, Emily and Sarah Kunstler’s Who We Are builds upon the framework of his talk with a compelling blend of archival imagery, personal anecdotes (Memphian Robinson was 11 years old when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and was one of the first Black students at an integrated school), plus interviews with key figures from recent watershed US race relations moments.
Robinson delivers a damning account of slavery and racism in the US, aiming to help break the country’s repeating cycle of ‘two steps forward, three steps back’. The quote from George Orwell’s 1984 above speaks to false narratives that Robinson, and the film, seek to redress: the country was not founded on principles of freedom for all, rather white supremacy is enshrined in the very laws of the land. Who We Are intentionally platformsvoices who’ve known direct loss due to racism (on a personal or community scale), such as Eric Garner’s mother and a 106-year-old survivor of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre. Robinson’s open and well-reasoned approach belies a simmering anger and deep sadness within, which can’t help but seep out, lending a moving urgency to the film and its theses. — Jacob Powell