#REVIEW: “TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
I am ashamed to admit that I have never read anything written by Toni Morrison. I knew she was a Nobel Prize for Literature winner and had seen the adaptation of her Novel Beloved but that was the extent of my knowledge. Therefore, I hungrily anticipated watching TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM, a Documentary on the life of this most accomplished woman.
Not surprisingly, this homage, directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, is one of the most literate documentaries I have seen. Toni Morrison’s expertise with words, as she tells her stories (sometimes with a luminous smile) is spectacular. Yes, this may be a “talking heads” Doc, but when the dialogue is this distinct, and concise with what it wants to project, it is virtuoso. When Morrison says that she learned the power of words from her mother or that her grandfather bragged about reading the Bible five times, our imagination immediately embraces her words with images. While on the topic of images, many of the stories are illustrated on screen with artwork and photographs depicting the history and heritage of African-American life in the States. It is like walking through a museum with work that is challenging, unique and breath-taking. Not only is TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM an aural masterpiece, it is a visual wonderland.
Friends, co-workers, and scholars are also on hand to talk about how Morrison changed the literary landscape. I enjoyed seeing Oprah Winfrey talk about how moved she was after reading “Beloved” and her efforts to get Morrison’s private phone number (Morrison’s response to this story is classic!) or Fran Lebowitz saying how much Morrison loves to receive gifts. I relished the stories of how Morrison (when she was an Editor at Random House) published Autobiographies by Angela Davis and Muhammad Ali. More importantly, I was mesmerized by how her books chronically fictionalized the lives of predominantly African-American women and how white American Book Reviewers responded to them. I was dumbfounded as to how often her books were banned.
TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM is stunning and revelatory. It has inspired me to get all her books and bathe in the beauty of this remarkable author’s words and images.
Mongrel Media release TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM Friday, July 7, 2019.