Lauryn Hill teamed up with screenwriter Oren Moverman to executive produce an upcoming documentary about the Baraka family, titled “Why Is We Americans?” and the project will premiere this week.
Last June, the documentary was first screened at the 12th Lighthouse International Film Festival.
The documentary is an “in-depth, cinematic exploration of Newark’s legendary Baraka family, the patriarch of which being the one and only Amiri Baraka (formerly known as LeRoi Jones), one of the most prodigious African American poet/playwright/activists of our time,” according to the synopsis.
He received an Obie for ”Dutchman” and second prize at the International Art Festival for ”The Slave” in 1964. He has also written several books, including a recently published autobiography.
The documentary initially began as a documentary about Ras Baraka’s 2014 electoral campaign for the Newark, NJ office of mayor. However, once filming, filmmakers saw that there was much more to tell.
“Why Is We Americans?” will also touch on the tragic death of Amiri’s sister Kimako, also known as Sondra Lee Jones. Kimako was brutally stabbed to death in her Manhattan apartment. Baraka’s daughter Shani, one of the first openly gay Black activists, was also killed.
“Spanning decades of social activism, poetry, music, art, and politics, this kaleidoscopic family saga is framed by on-camera interviews with Ms. Lauryn Hill and local civil rights leaders, rare archival footage and revealing personal testimonials,” the synopsis continues. “As we connect with the iconoclastic poet Amiri Baraka, his wife, Amina, and their son, Ras, a portrait of a city emerges with an inspiring call to arms in the fight for class and racial justice.”
“Why Is We Americans?” will premiere theatrically at IFC Center on Jan.14. The film will also air at the 2022 Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles on April 19.