Don't Miss the Documentary on Alice Walkers' Life, Activism and Art on PBS 'American Masters'

3 years ago

This weekend, author and activist Alice Walker will celebrate her 70th birthday.  An American Masters showing of a documentary exploring her life and work premieres on PBS tonight, sharing the remarkable story of Walker's early life as a sharecropper's daughter, through her awakening as an artist and an activist, and on to through her contemporary written work and controversial global advocacy. 

Image: American Masters / PBS

Director Pratibha Parmar presented an online preview of American Masters - Alice Walker: Beauty in  Truth, and it is gorgeous, lyrical and catalyzing. Parmar gathered expansive, candid moments with Alice Walker, and she said Walker gave her access to her personal archives so that she could weave drafts of poems in Walker's own hand, ephemera such as early school grades and piles of personal photos and notes throughout.

Parmar also highlights landscape shots from Walker's beloved northern California and from Iceland, where Walker traveled to receive a peace price from Yoko Ono. The resulting film is beautiful, layered and resonant with Alice Walker's voice and the score of composers Tena R. Clark and Tim Heintz with featured music by Christen Lien. Parmar has collaborated with Alice Walker before, on the award-winning documentary Warrior Marks and book of the same name.  

The other interviews in Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth are amazing as well, including conversations about The Color Purple with Stephen Spielberg and Danny Glover, discussions about Walker's legacy with Gloria Steinem and Sapphire, and personal rememberances by the late Howard Zinn in one of his final interviews. Just the thought of Zinn teaching a young Alice Walker at Spellman College is thrilling, and his interview brings that entire time period to life vividly. Parmar said that Zinn was amazing to interview and reduced her and the documentary crew to tears with his stories.

Like many others, I have felt personally connected to Alice Walker through the immediacy of her voice since first being assigned Meridian in a Women's Studies course decades ago.  I don't agree with everything she has advocated over the years, but she has never failed to make me think and to inspire me with her courage, talent and conviction. This documentary, gathering and celebrating her bold and important legacy is a brilliant gift to all of us. 

The premiere tonight is part of the wonderful Women and Girls Lead project. 

American Masters — Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth is one of 50 films that form part of Women and Girls Lead, a public media campaign spearheaded by the Independent Television Service, that harnesses the power of documentary film to showcase extraordinary women and girls who are changing the world. The initiative features groundbreaking women like Alice Walker, who refuse to submit to gender stereotypes or compromise her form of artistic expression.


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