The Oscars ceremony is Sunday, and one of the nominees is a filmmaker who spent a great deal of his upbringing in Memphis.
Noland Walker is nominated for his work on the documentary, “I am Not Your Negro.”
The film is a fierce audit of racial tensions in the United States. It is directed by Raul Peck and co-produced by Walker. Peck structured the film around one of Baldwin’s unfinished projects – a book called, “Remember This House.” The book tells of the lives of his three friends, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, who were all assassinated before turning 40.
Walker moved to Memphis when he was nine during the 1970’s. His family moved exactly six years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Walker says racial tension was still prevalent during his upbringing in Memphis.
“Baldwin’s book ruminations on three of his very good friends, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers and what their lives meant and what their deaths meant and what that meant for this country,” Walker explained.
Memphis was Walker’s home for more than a decade. He graduated from Central High School, and his mother still lives here. She is Reverend Sonia Walker, Associate Pastor at Frist Congressional Church in Midtown.
“My great grandmother had her own ice cream shop on Beale Street. My family came through here 70 years earlier on the way North, and we came back after my dad got a job as the President of Lemoyne Owens College,” Walker explained.
Walker has produced many documentaries and is the Senior Content Director for Independent Television Service, the production company that financed the film.
“This year is very unique in the documentary category because you have four of the five nominees are black filmmakers,” Walker said.
He says the culture and history in Memphis impacted his career a great deal.
“This is a place where I got to really appreciate people, and I think for me that shaped a lot of the work I’ve done as a filmmaker,” he said.
Four out of five documentaries up for an Academy Award on Sunday are made by black filmmakers. I Am Not Your Negro is nominated alongside Roger Ross Williams’s Life, Animated; Ava DuVernay’s 13th; Gianfranco Rosi and Donatella Palermo’s Fire at Sea; and Ezra Edelman’s O.J.: Made in America. Believe in the Oscars’ red carpet parade of pomp or don’t, that’s up to you, but this year’s recognition by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is powerful.
Local 24 is rooting for Walker and his team. The Oscars air this Sunday at 7:30 p.m.