(M) Samuel L. Jackson does some of the talking, but there is only one real narrator of I Am Not Your Negro: the eloquent American writer and social critic James Baldwin. Baldwin is featured in interviews and speeches melded into this 95-minute documentary, encapsulating his captivating contribution to the American race debate. The ground-level history of the 1960s is confronting to watch: photographs and film clips of black Americans being beaten by white police and white citizens, flowing into footage of more recent confrontations. Watching this made me feel like Baldwin did. That potential for understanding, I think, was his hope, the reason he described himself as an optimist.
Mountain (G) Mountain is a ravishingly beautiful documentary from Jennifer Peedom, director of last year’s Sherpa. Mountains all over the world were filmed by a team of cinematographers and the footage has been edited to an original score by Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Erupting volcanoes and avalanches are spectacular enough, but closeup scenes of mountain climbing and various extreme sports are tremendously exciting.
Australia Day Assassins Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Assassins (1990) throws together a motley band of successful and would-be killers of US presidents and assesses them against the unforgiving standards of American exceptionalism. Presidential murderers and wannabes from elder statesman John Wilkes Booth (Abraham Lincoln, 1865) to John Hinckley (Ronald Reagan, 1981) get to explain themselves and maybe get a little understanding. Dean Bryant’s production of this rarely seen Sondheim comes very close to being great. The crack team includes a terrific five-piece band under Andrew Worboys’s direction and Andrew Hallsworth as the very fine choreographer. The cast couldn’t be better and the staging expertly walks the tightrope between black humour and coruscating anger, and back again. For all their delusions and misguided passions, these flawed souls have a powerful point about life’s injustices. Hayes Theatre Co, 19 Greenknowe Avenue, Sydney. Today, 2pm and 7.30pm. Tickets: $70-$78. Bookings: (02) 8065 7337 or online. Duration: 1hr 45min. Until October 22. Williams (viola) and Michelle Wood (cello). They perform a program of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky. Sydney Opera House, Utzon Room, Bennelong Point. Tomorrow, 3pm. Tickets; $40$60. Bookings: (02) 9250 7777 or online. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Sydney Symphony Orchestra plays John Williams’s score from Harry Potter’s second year at Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets alongside a screening of the film in the Sydney Opera House’s largest venue, the Concert Hall. Sydney Opera House, Concert Hall, Bennelong Point. Opens Wednesday, 7pm. Tickets: $49$149. Bookings: (02) 9250 7777 or online. Until October 7. Recent works