The Defiant Ones
Stanley Kramer, USA, 1958, 35mm, 96m
A huge hit when it was released,
The Defiant Ones stars Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis as escaped convicts from a chain gang in the South who are literally yoked together. In The Devil Finds Work, Baldwin states that this domestic drama about race during the middle of the last century “is being offered as a metaphor for the ordeal of black-white relations in America, an ordeal, the film is saying, that has brought us closer together than we know.” It is this effort “of the most disastrous sentimentality to bring black men into the white American nightmare” that the author suggests caused Harlem audiences to resent the film while white liberal viewers applauded.

My Childhood Part 2: James Baldwin’s Harlem
Arthur Barron, USA, 1964, digital projection, 30m
James Baldwin narrates how his early years in Harlem made him alive to the forces at work in the city and American society to manage the black population. Describing the economic and visual disparity of New York’s famed Fifth Avenue that runs through Manhattan and Harlem, Baldwin reminds us that the “avenue is elsewhere the renowned and elegant Fifth,” but venturing north “we find ourselves on wide, filthy, hostile Fifth Avenue, facing a project which hangs over the avenue like a monument to the folly, and cowardice of good intentions.”