Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi in The Yale Review:
The eleven-minute black and white documentary, James Baldwin: From Another Place, directed by Sedat Pakay and filmed in Istanbul in May 1970, opens with a shot of Baldwin lying supine in a large bed in a sparsely decorated room. The curtains are closed. Baldwin throws back the covers and gets up; he is wearing nothing but a pair of white briefs. He turns his back to the camera and opens the curtains. A sharp Mediterranean light floods in. Baldwin scratches the small of his back, and we hear him say in voiceover: “I suppose that many people do blame me for being out of the States as often as I am, but one can’t afford to worry about that because one does, you know, you do what you have to do the way you have to do it. And as someone who is outside of the States you realize that it’s impossible to get out, the American powers are everywhere.” The camera pans over the glittering Bosphorus Strait as American ships glide silently through the passage connecting Asia and Europe.
Pakay’s film has long been almost impossible to see in the United States, aside from a short clip on YouTube. But in February, it began streaming on the Criterion Channel, and its reappearance is a useful occasion to re-examine one of the most important, and yet relatively unknown, aspects of Baldwin’s career: his time in Turkey.