The new documentary “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am” has one all-important ingredient going for it—Toni Morrison herself. Directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, the impressive film features literary great Morrison talking about her life and work in great detail.
The Nobel prize-winning African- American author and editor, now 88, is illuminating, appealing and informative as she discusses an array of subjects and expresses her opinions about literature, society, racism and the need for social justice without flinching. What comes through splendidly is a portrait of a feisty woman who is remarkable in so many ways.
In the process we get the story of her life that began in Lorain, Ohio, and how she became a writer despite not being taken seriously at first. The film brings her novels to the fore, including “The Bluest Eye,” “Sula,” “Song of Solomon,” and importantly, Pulitzer Prize-winning “Beloved,” which became a film starring Oprah Winfrey, who co-produced it. (See Search for my film review). Clips from the film are included in the documentary.
The film includes controversy involving writers who banded together to protest her not getting the recognition she deserved, and some of the backlash when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.
Greenfield-Sanders has enriched the film with insightful comments about Morrison, including by Winfrey, Robert Gottlieb, Fran Lebowitz, Angela Davis, Walter Mosley, Sonia Sanchez, Farah Griffin and Hilton Als.
But is is mainly getting to know Morrison more intimately via her own comments and recollections that makes this an outstanding documentary of special importance to the world of literature as well as to the world of film. A Magnolia Pictures release. Reviewed June 21, 2019.