The simplest thing to say about Who We Are is that it should be part of the standard curriculum in every school in America.
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It’s a confrontational film, but never an alienating one, and so much of what’s in it is persuasive.
If the format of a lecture is inherently limiting, the directors do a superb job of weaving a compelling visual — and emotional — experience.
What this film does best is offer, sometimes playfully and sometimes not, new perspectives on the central problem of our shared history.
Robinson is matter-of-fact, thoughtful and enormously compelling in illustrating hidden chapters of our shared history.
The combined impact of these scenes, augmented with Robinson’s lecture — which, while deeply informed and informative, is anything but dull or academic — makes for a powerful one-two punch.
Who We Are, a revelatory, albeit stiff documentary, anchored by Robinson’s personal anecdotes and footage of his 2018 lecture at New York City’s Town Hall Theater, uncovers startling research while surveying the country’s unimaginable racial crimes.
Arriving at a time when conversations once reserved for academics have filtered into popular culture, “Who We Are” never plays like the product of some Hollywood bandwagon effort. Instead, its existence speaks to the power of cinema to reflect the times by sparking conversations and changing minds.
While Robinson’s lecture is thought-provoking and his living tour of that same history is illuminating, the Kunstlers don’t add much in terms of directorial vision. Robinson is an apt orator and tour guide, but the literal translation of his lecture to screen lacks life and suffers from the inherent banality that comes with watching a recording of someone – no matter how charismatic – speaking to a live audience we are not part of.