Maya rises

CityPress - - T# - GUGULETHU MHLUNGU gugulethu.mhlungu@city­press.co.za

Maya An­gelou: And Still I Rise Direc­tors: Bob Her­cules, Rita Coburn Whack

It does not try to do too much in terms of pre­sen­ta­tion, and fol­lows a chrono­log­i­cal or­der that traces the writer’s life over four years, largely through her own voice. She leads us through archival ma­te­rial, and it pauses only to make way for some of the peo­ple who knew and loved her – and that list is im­pres­sive, with Hil­lary Clin­ton, Bill Clin­ton, Com­mon, Quincy Jones, Cicely Tyson and Win­frey among them.

We learn of An­gelou’s tu­mul­tuous child­hood in the ter­ri­fy­ing and racist Deep South of Amer­ica; her ex­pe­ri­ences of aban­don­ment by her mother; her close re­la­tion­ship with her brother; her rape by her mother’s then boyfriend and his death, which a young Maya blamed her­self for; her en­try into sex work as a teenager, which she al­ways spoke openly and frankly about; and how the mul­ti­tal­ented ac­tress, dancer and en­ter­tainer be­came the pro­lific writer and poet she is most fa­mous for be­ing.

This leads us to a rare mo­ment where she reads a poem at Bill Clin­ton’s in­au­gu­ra­tion in 1993, and up­stages him. Her raspy and com­fort­ing voice leads the viewer through what is also a story of Amer­ica in the 20th cen­tury.

David D’Arcy, writ­ing for Sun­dance, said of the doc­u­men­tary: “An­gelou was a poet, singer, au­thor and civil rights ac­tivist, and the clos­est thing that Amer­ica has to a cul­tural saint. This new doc­u­men­tary canon­ises her in cinema.”

Maya An­gelou: And Still I Rise is safe and con­ven­tional in its pre­sen­ta­tion. How­ever, it cap­tures An­gelou’s voice and al­lows us to meet her once more, and for the first full-length fea­ture of one of con­tem­po­rary his­tory’s lit­er­ary greats, that’s a fit­ting tribute.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

CUL­TURAL ICON Ac­tress, dancer, writer and civil rights ac­tivist Maya An­gelou

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