Last week I watched Raoul Peck‘s “Exterminate all the Brutes” for the very first time, weeks after it initially premiered on HBO Max. I intentionally waited for all the fervor of others to calm down before trying to put into words this four-part documentary/expose on the seeds of white supremacy in western civilization.
I have always been a fan of Peck’s work (I Am Not Your Negro) and wanted to give the air time to settle before wading in with my take.
The four parts, named “The Disturbing Confidence of Ignorance,” “Who the F*ck is Columbus?,” “Killing at a Distance,” and “The Bright Colors of Fascism,” blows a revealing wind upon the long-forgotten pages of history, withered, crumbling and almost indecipherable.
The well-researched, fact-based but somewhat serialized documentary was at times beautiful, and ghastly at others. Indeed, white supremacy’s true tally is immeasurable.
Peck gives us a road map of madness, tracing what he believed to be the first instance in which white supremacy was ratified as an institution-which began at the behest of early European royalty with the Roman Catholic church and chartered the beginning of the Crusades.
The documentary also features actor Josh Hartnett as the face of white supremacy across generations and continents.
From the rural regions of the Congo, to the great American plains, to the enslavement of African men and women, to the Jewish Holocaust and atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the last, and hopefully final, Great War, “Exterminate all the Brutes” contextualizes every modern societal phenomenon projecting upon population bases in the form white supremacy, and he provides a stack of historic receipts as high as Kareem Abdul Jabber’s eyeball.
Based on Sven Lindqvist’s “Exterminate all the Brutes”, Roxanne Dubar-Ortiz’s work “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States’ and Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s “Silencing the Past”, “Exterminate all the Brutes” also intersplices documentary footage with film references, animation and scripted scenes to craft a picture that is thorough by its very nature, and unapologetically Black as well.
Peck never says that, but how can such a work, with such a tone and narrated with a rich Haitian accent, NOT be Black even if the content was not?
There is no refuting that we currently live in an unsustainable state of inter-cultural affairs within the modern American zeitgeist, but if you ask a million different people how we got here you’d likely get the same number of responses.
This isn’t merely a documentary about a societal phenomenon but it’s also the first instance that I can honestly recall where the atrocities of the Native genocide, African enslavement, the Holocaust, the first and only atomic bombs dropped on Japan, as well as the ongoing overseas wars of dominance perpetuated under the guise of freedom and equality, are but continuing chapters of the same white supremacist game plan.
Though no work is perfect, and intentions are difficult to gauge, Peck’s insertion of his own story, as well as that of his native Haiti, into the overall narrative was a touch that was frowned upon by some film critics, but one that I appreciated a great deal-both from a scholarly perspective and an artistic one.