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Posts Tagged ‘Angela Davis’

“TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM”  My rating: B

120 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

It’s about time.

At age 87 writer/editor/educator Toni Morrison has won a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize and her novels — Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby and Jazz — can be rightly said to have made major contributions to American literature.

But there’s never been a major documentary about Morrison, an oversight director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders corrects with “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am.”

Drawing upon a small army of big-name admirers –among them Oprah Winfrey, Walter Mosley, Russell Banks, Angela Davis, Fran Lebowitz  and her editor Robert Gottlieb — Greenfield-Sanders intersperses talking-head observations with vintage newsreels, family photos and Morrison’s own testimony (recorded in sessions going back to the ’70s) to create a panoramic history of her life and career.

We hear of her childhood in Loraine Ohio and get from the author an amazing story about her grandfather, who boasted of having read the Bible at a time when Negro literacy was illegal in some states. In another story she recalls how an obscenity scribbled on the sidewalk outside their house infuriated her mother.

Both incidents, she recalls, taught her that “Words have power.”

College, a failed marriage, two sons…and a job editing at a small publishing firm that was absorbed by book giant random house. Morrison edited other writers’ books while working on her own (usually in the hours before sunrise, while her children were still sleeping).

Early criticism of her work was, in retrospect, borderline racist. White critics admired her style but cautioned that as long as she insisted on writing “just” about the black experience she was doomed to the literary fringes.

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“THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967-1975” My rating : B 

96 minutes | No MPAA rating

I’m not sure how members of other generations will view it, but for this boomer “Black Power Mixtape” was a sort of wonderful time machine to a not-so-wonderful time.

Goran Hugo Olsson’s documentary has been fashioned primarily out of footage shot by crews from Swedish television who in the late ‘60s and ‘70s reported on social upheaval in the U.S.

The Scandinavians were particularly intrigued with race relations in this country, especially the rise of the Black Power movement, the backlash from the powers that be and the arrival of charismatic new voices like Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and Bobby Seale.

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