Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise documentary opens in theaters today. The documentary chronicles the life of the late Dr. Angelou through exploration of important events, history, culture and of course the arts. The documentary, which features Angelou, media mogul and close friend Oprah Winfrey, legendary musician Quincy Jones, Grammy and Academy award-winning rapper Common, Academy award-winning actor Louis Gossett, Jr. and Angelou’s son poet Guy Johnson, explores the life and legacy of Angelou, whose poetry and activism influenced writers and culture for decades.
Tambay Obenson of Shadow and Act writes:
The film pieces together the life of prejudice and oppression that made the seminal author of “Í Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” the great, inspirational writer whose name defies categorization.
It made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, as part of the Documentary Premieres, and continues to travel the film festival circuit. It’s also a film that I have on my list of 2017 Oscar nominee potentials (in the documentary category). Previously titled “Maya Angelou: The People’s Poet,” the film’s new title comes from “And Still I Rise,” Angelou’s third volume of poetry, published by Random House in 1978…featuring footage from Angelou’s days as a calypso singer/dancer, as well as interviews with Diahann Carroll and Don Martin speaking about being introduced to Angelou during those years.
Ken Jaworski of The New York Times writes:
“Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise” covers so much ground that it’s usually easy to forgive the filmmakers for not digging deeper. This is a documentary interested in breadth rather than depth, and on those terms it succeeds.
Recounting Ms. Angelou’s life (1928-2014) may seem redundant to those who’ve read her autobiographies, notably “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” But the photographs and film footage here add another dimension to her stories, as do interviews with her son, artists who worked with her, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Kate Erbland of Indiewire, who believes the documentary lacks the “spark” of its subject, writes:
A dancer, singer, actress, writer – “a consummate performer,” by one participant’s estimation – who lived her entire life on one kind of stage or another, “And Still I Rise” plods through all of the chapters of Angelou’s life with respect and appropriate contemplation, with the majority of it narrated and clarified by Angelou herself. A wonderfully skilled public speaker, Angelou guides the film through the many years of her life with a calm that would be unnerving coming from anyone else. She is both matter of fact about the worst of her experiences and eloquent in describing them, and though Angelou was often known to fudge some details — or wholesale deny them — the film’s audience will likely walk away thinking they know the whole story, if only because she’s so firmly convincing.
Dennis Harvey of Variety writes:
Taking a straightforward chronological approach, the pic commences with the celebrated author’s tumultuous early years, which were the focus of so much of her writing — most famously her poetical 1969 memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” her first and still most popular and influential book. (It also remains one of the books most frequently banned from U.S. schools for its frank depiction of child sexual abuse and racism.) When their parents’ stormy marriage ran aground, she and her brother Bailey were summarily shipped as mere toddlers to tiny Stamps, Ark. It was a devastating upheaval somewhat mitigated by the positive influence of their grandmother, whose entrepreneurial zeal managed to flourish despite the Depression.
Running time: 114 min. Check local theater listings for showtimes.
This post was curated by Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., founder & editor-in-chief of the award-winning news site The Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter @Ntellectual.