It’s a film we’ve all been waiting for, even if we didn’t know we were holding a collective breath beyond hope that it would someday be made. With an all-star lineup of guests who rave and even weep over a life well-crafted like the characters that haunt and explicate a gene pool too deep to tread lightly—Timothy Greenfield- Sanders’s “Toni Morrison: Pieces That I Am,” (2019), 120 min., is that work. The director shares an intimacy on screen with an artist, Nobel Laurette, mother, Daddy’s girl, whom we know from “The Bluest Eye,” “Sula,” “Song of Solomon” and “Beloved” to “Paradise” and “A Mercy.” Some like Angela Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Walter Mosley, Sonia Sanchez and her editor Robert Adams Gottlieb, know her as friend.
In a work that is as lovely a cinematic journey as it is a pleasure to listen to and discover more about this very private yet public figure, this may be a work Greenfield- Sanders cannot top. Morrison’s mother’s family moved from Greenville, Alabama to Lorain, Ohio, where Morrison was later born. Her dad grew up in Cartersville, Georgia.
Morrison speaks of her community as a mixed-race town where all the kids played together and the families got along. The second eldest of four, she spoke of going to Howard University and then Princeton so she could have fun, perhaps too much fun away from her mother’s watchful eye.
The author’s journey to New York where she was hired by Random House is a sight, mere words cannot convey. Imagine a self-possessed Morrison with a pipe, the only woman in photos with white male colleagues that speaks volumes about Morrison’s autonomy and self-assurance. In one scene she learns that women editors are making less than their male counterparts. In the next she tells her supervisor, “I am head of household just like you.” Her pay is made equitable immediately.
This example of Morrison’s non-sexist or racial nonsense is repeated often in “Pieces that I Am.” An epic life, what makes this film even more remarkable is the use of fine art to illustrate the journey from Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration Series” to Charles White, Lorna Simpson and Hank Willis-Thomas, the work explores a writer’s life and the reciprocal nature of this medium. The film’s release locally and nationally, June will also debut on KQED locally in the American Masters Series. The film is currently at Landmark Albany Twin, 1115 Solano Avenue, Albany, (510) 525-4531.
To listen to an interview with Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, director, on Wanda’s Picks Radio Show visit: http://tobtr.com/11434151