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The life of Maya Angelou told in recent documentary on PBS

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The life of Maya Angelou told in recent documentary on PBS
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Women’s History Month is the perfect time for TheBobbyPen to recognize one of the many amazing women who have led the way for female innovators, artists, entrepreneurs and young women who strive to live phenomenally, Dr. Maya Angelou, a true American icon.

Author, poet, civil right activist, and Pulitzer Prize Winner, Dr. Angelou (April 4, 1928-May 28, 2014) formed the unforgettable, inspirational words, “Still I Rise,” that still to this day impacts the nations.

Angelou gave people the freedom to think about their history in a way they never had before. Although she is not here in the flesh, her spirit still lives on and we remember her vision in the American Masters Film, Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise, directed by Bob Hercules & Rita Coburn Whack. The exclusive U.S. broadcast premiered on the American Masters series in Feb 2017 on PBS.

Filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack at the Sundance Festival – Photo by Christopher Howard Marquis Studios

Filmmakers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack traced Dr. Angelou’s incredible journey, shedding light on the untold aspects of her life through never-before-seen footage, rare archival photographs and videos and her own words.

“The film reflects on how the events of history, culture and the arts shaped Dr. Angelou’s life, and how she, in turn, helped shape our own worldview through her autobiographical literature and activism,” said co-director and co-producer Rita Coburn Whack.

“It was a unique privilege to be the first filmmakers to tell Dr. Angelou’s full story and exciting to uncover stories that most people hadn’t heard,” said co-director and co-producer Bob Hercules.

The film premiered to critical acclaim at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.  It won the Audience Award at AFI Docs and was featured at notable filmfests worldwide including Full Frame, Sheffield Docs, Boulder Film Fest, and RiverRun, winning 9 awards on 3 continents. It is a co-production of Dr. Angelou, The People Poet Media Group, LLC, American Masters Pictures, and ITVS in association with Artemis Rising.

Quincy Jones and producers Photo by Marselle Washington

“I really felt that her life deserved so much excavation. How do you live 86 years and come from the Jim Crow South in 1928, being raped by 7 years old, and stand on your feet and become an Inaugural poet and Civil Rights activist. It’s nothing short of a modern day miracle. Her life was filled with what the beauty of life is – pain joy, and she loved and lost,” Coburn Whack said.

The documentary sheds light on Angelou’s upbringing in the Depression-era South, her early performing career as Miss Calypso, to her work with Malcolm X in Ghana and her many writing successes – including her inaugural poem for President Bill Clinton. As a singer, dancer, activist, poet and writer, Angelou inspired generations with lyrical modern African-American thought that pushed boundaries Dr. Maya Angelou.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact it may be necessary that you encounter defeat so that you know who you are, “ a Maya Angelou quote found by BBC News.

Dr. Maya Angelou, Photo courtesy of PBS.org

The film features exclusive interviews with Dr. Angelou, as well as her friends and family – Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, Hillary Clinton, Louis Gossett, Jr., John Singleton, Diahann Carroll, Valerie Simpson, Random House editor Bob Loomis and Dr. Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson.

Coburn Whack, who spent a lot of time with Dr. Angelou before completing the documentary, said Angelou told history from a black women’s point of view. “She lived history and then wrote 7 autobiographical memoirs to tell us about it, 36 books in all before she died.”

“People should grow and become active once watching this documentary. You can look at your own reality and define your own life more…If you don’t actively grow after you’ve seen it then you’ve missed the point,” Coburn Whack said.

Since the documentary premiered thousands have gone to the screenings around the world. Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise is still available on the American Masters series on PBS.