Maya Angelou: And I Still Rise is the first feature documentary about incomparable writer, poet, performer, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou.
Filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack show Angelou’s trajectory from traumatic childhood, teenage motherhood, and eventually finding her true voice through writing. Hercules and Coburn Whack introduce us to a young Angelou through her own voice; describing the many trips back and forth between her parents and her grandmother’s place in Stamps, Arkansas. At seven years old, Angelou and her brother Bailey, go back to California to live with their mother. It is there that Angelou is sexually abused by her mother’s then boyfriend. This incident led Angelou into selective mutism for five years. During this time, she and Bailey are sent back to her grandmother’s in Stamps. It is here that Angelou was to find her voice again learning and reading poetry.
She grows up and moves to San Francisco, where she becomes a performer. She would dance and sing, and even record some songs on a few records. Still a teenager, she gives birth to her son, Guy Johnson. Angelou describes her mother as very “supportive and non-judgmental” through this time.
Angelou’s narration continues and puts us in the midst of the the civil rights struggle, the Harlem Writers Guild, the New Africa movement, the women’s movement, and the cultural and political realignments of the 1970s and ’80s. She was moved by Martin Luther King; inspired by James Baldwin and Malcolm X. Alongside her, Guy would witness his mother’s evolution into a pivotal role during this time in American civil rights history. Guy shares stories about being in a protest with Angelou, and she refusing to move for the mounted police. She was the embodiment of courage for him. It is important to hear Guy speak about his mother; on more than one occasion, he shares some very personal moments.
In 1969 Angelou writes the iconic book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a must-read. Her editor, Robert Loomis, with whom she would collaborate for years, was the first to really push her to write her own story. Through books, short stories, and poetry, Angelou becomes one of the strongest and greatest voices in contemporary America. Unapologetic, honest, defiant, a force to be reckoned with, Angelou reminds us that to overcome racism and any of life’s traumas, one must always be true to oneself… “because you are enough”.
Maya Angelou: And I Still Rise blends rare footage and never-before-seen photos to show an intimate view of her life, and includes an incredible cast of interviewees including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Cicely Tyson, Lou Gossett Jr., and Oprah Winfrey. A great homage to celebrate the life and work of this incredibly inspiring woman.
Maya Angelou: And I Still Rise screens at the Hot Docs Cinema from August 12 – 18. Co-director Rita Coburn-Whack will participate in a Skype Q&A on Saturday, August 13 at 1 pm, and co-director Bob Hercules will take part in a Skype Q&A on Sunday, August 14 at 3:45 pm. Tickets are $12 each (Hot Docs members: $8, $6, Free). Tickets can be purchased at the Hot Docs box office (506 Bloor St. W.) or online at www.hotdocscinema.ca.