James’ films portray the injustices and the inequalities in American society. But what stands out in each of them is the empathic, honest and humble way he films the lives of his characters. And this is exactly his secret, the key that he bravely revealed to us. He compares making a film to having dates: “In a sense, we are asking you out, we are making a film about you. So people really go out of their way to try to present their best selves”, he says. With humour and trust, he tries to make people enjoy the filming process, “we try to get to this place as quickly as possible, where people can feel like they can be themselves”; “We all wanna be ourselves”, he adds.
The Interrupters, America to Me or Hoop Dreams are some of his most celebrated titles to date. In them, he explores the difficulties that Afro-Americans and other marginalized communities have to face in the United States. “I think that if you go to communities that are not your own, you need to be humble and open to learn and understand, and spend the time there”, he says. We interview him to learn more about himself, his work and why documentaries are so important for the progress of culture and society.