Filmmaker Karen Thorsen gave us James Baldwin: The Price of the
Ticket, the award-winning documentary that is now considered a
classic. First broadcast on PBS/American Masters in August, 1989—just
days after what would have been Baldwin’s 65th birthday—the film
premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1990. It was not the film Thorsen
intended to make. Beginning in 1986, she and Baldwin had been collaborating on a
very different film project: a “nonfiction feature” about the
history, research, and writing of Baldwin’s next book, Remember
This House. It was also going to be a film about progress: how far
we had come, how far we still had to go, before we learned to trust our common
humanity. The following memoir explores how and why their collaboration began.
This recollection will be serialized in two parts, with the second installment
appearing in James Baldwin Review’s seventh issue, due
out in the fall of 2021.