‘The Sleeping Negro’ Executes Important Themes With Lackluster Writing and Acting

Ulises Duenas


A quote from James Baldwin about being black in America sets the tone for The Sleeping Negro.  It’s a movie about race, rage, and the struggle to maintain humanity when the deck is stacked against you.


However, despite its message and poignant moments, the film still stumbles with its dialogue and performances.


No one in this movie has a specific name; even the main character is credited as “Man.” Skinner Myers plays the lead as well as being the director and writer of the movie, but his performance often feels stilted and his monologues overly verbose.



It’s understandable that an indie director and writer would want to star in his own movie, but there are other actors in the film that likely would have done a better job as the lead.


Myers’ character is a young black man struggling with inner rage and a desire to move up in the corporate world. There’s a tragic irony to the character since it shows that his inner rage wants to break out and rebel against white society -- yet he is still bound to its rules and craves success within it.


The protagonist often rants about institutional racism and lectures others about not taking the issue seriously. At the same time, he takes on a job from his white boss to illegally evict a black family from their home so that he can get a promotion. The title of The Sleeping Negro refers to a label that he puts on a former friend because he’s not aware of the societal prison the white man has put him in and instead chooses to “sleep.”



Throughout these scenes, you can see that while Myers is obviously passionate about the subject matter of the movie, his performance and writing don’t do it justice. At its worst, this movie feels like an edgy student film made by someone who was more focused on delivering a message than making a good movie.


At its best, there are scenes heavy with drama and tension that help drive those messages home because they’re delivered by characters that feel like real people.


At the end of its 70-minute runtime, The Sleeping Negro seems more like an attempt at something profound instead of a truly great work. While its themes and lessons are important, its execution makes for a disappointing film.


Author Bio:

Ulises Duenas is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.


For Highbrow Magazine


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