Dr Maya Angelou has had an incredible life and it is her gravitas and presence which makes this documentary. From her early childhood to her final days the film follows her life in detail through a wide archive of footage and photography and a breadth of interviews including Bill Clinton and her son.
As well as being a biographical film her experiences as an African-American women and her role as an activist spanning many decades means the audience is taken on a journey through America’s very recent history. Yet far from seeing these historical figures and occasions simply through Dr. Angelou’s eyes: her childhood experience with the Klu Klux Klan, her relationship with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, her role in the Harlem Renaissance and her conversation with Tupac Shakur, what becomes increasingly clear is how she has not been just a spectator of history, but has been an active force in the shaping of modern America.
The film offers unprecedented access into Dr. Angelou’s life through the interviews with close friends – it is here we see more deeply the fears and difficulties which make up this extraordinary woman and offers a real sense of the person behind the greatness. Yet the film can feel slightly unbalanced – it explores her personal life in detail, particularly her relationship with her son, husbands and partners, and it shines a strong light her activism and political journey, but as a result her unsurpassed mastery of literature and poetry feels less well developed.
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise is a traditional documentary which, unlike the women herself, takes no risks. However Dr Angelou is such a charismatic and awe-inspiring character, her life so rich, so exciting, so monumental, the camera merely needs to be facing her way to be captivating.
DIRECTORS: Bob Hercules, Rita Coburn
SYNOPSIS: A biographical documentary about the great Dr. Maya Angelou.