doc­u­men­tary, 114 min­utes, not rated, 3 chiles

Pasatiempo - - RANDOM ACTS -

“Au­to­bi­og­ra­phy is aw­fully se­duc­tive,” says the late Maya An­gelou in this doc­u­men­tary de­voted to her life. In An­gelou’s case, at least, this state­ment bears out — be­fore she be­came revered as an award-win­ning au­thor, her var­ied jobs in­cluded stints as a fry cook, night­club per­former, sex worker, jour­nal­ist, and ac­tivist. Best known for her se­ries of seven au­to­bi­ogra­phies, be­gin­ning with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), An­gelou con­sid­ered her­self a writer who con­tin­ued a tra­di­tion es­tab­lished by Fred­er­ick Dou­glass — that of the slave nar­ra­tive. She made a habit of “speak­ing in the first-per­son sin­gu­lar, talk­ing about the third-per­son plu­ral, al­ways say­ing ‘I,’ mean­ing ‘we.’ ”

This straight­for­ward film is low on in­no­va­tion and stuffed with celebrity ap­pear­ances, in­clud­ing Ci­cely Tyson, Bill and Hil­lary Clin­ton, Oprah Win­frey, Al­fre Woodard, Com­mon, and John Sin­gle­ton, but An­gelou’s re­mark­able life out­shines the movie’s some­what mun­dane pack­ag­ing. On the set of Sin­gle­ton’s film Po­etic

Jus­tice (1993), when a young Tu­pac Shakur be­came up­set and was lash­ing out, she calmly took him aside and asked him, “When was the last time any­one told you you were im­por­tant?” With this sim­ple ques­tion, she re­in­forced his place at the end of a long line of black peo­ple who had strug­gled for their free­dom and con­tin­ued to rise up. For gen­er­a­tions of African Amer­i­cans, An­gelou was the per­son to re­mind them of this legacy — and their im­por­tance in con­tin­u­ing it. — Molly Boyle Jean Cocteau Cin­ema, 7 p.m. Sun­day, Oct. 23

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