The award winning documentary comes to Montreal’s International Black Film Festival
Co-directed by Rita Coburn Whack and Bob Hercules, Maya Angelou And Still I Rise opened the 12th annual Montreal International Black Film Festival. A great success, the film has won nine awards from multiple countries including the Best International Feature Documentary award from the Galway Film Fleadh. It is the first biographical documentary about Angelou, which is surprising, considering her many accomplishments, including being the writer of 36 published books, a poet, dancer and activist. From the opening frame to the end credits, the film creates a strong sense of community that brings together its viewers to honour a woman who has touched so many hearts.
The film covers many lesser-known aspects of Angelou’s life, beginning with her childhood in Stamp, Arkansas. Her journey continues on—from place to place, job to job, man to man. The film takes a look at the countless struggles she faced throughout her life, including racism and rejection. The film exudes courage and class, and leaves viewers feeling empowered and inspired.
Maya Angelou And Still I Rise includes interviews with many actors and friends of Angelou, including Cicely Tyson, Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones and Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson. The film uses a significant amount of found footage. The found footage and brought the film to life, as it showed so many memorable moments in Angelou’s life. The footage is not necessarily shown in chronological order, although it ties in nicely with the large range of interviews.
From beginning to end, the score rises and falls with the emotions of the story, evoking sadness as it slows down, and inspiration when the music becomes upbeat. Nevertheless, the story itself brings out all kinds of emotions, from beginning to end.
Although this documentary had moments of sadness and some elements of shock and anger, it was predominantly filled with moments of laughter and joy that permeate through the audience. Watching Angelou rise from her past with the help of her family and friends reminds us of the importance of courage and community. The film allows us to look beneath the surface of Angelou’s fame, and discover the stories we may have never otherwise known about her. This film is a must-see for those who are less familiar with her story, and a special treat for those who praise and admire this monumental woman. Maya Angelou And Still I Rise promotes love, diversity and courage, and is representative of what inspirational cinema should be.
Concordia is a private partner of the Montreal International Black Film Festival, which runs from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2.