IDP Foundation Grantee “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise” Documentary Film Has Breakout Year
Dr. Angelou at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, 1993
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. Maya Angelou, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise has had a breakout year. As the first documentary to center on Dr. Angelou’s life and work, excitement around its release was only to be expected.
Interviews with Dr. Angelou herself, along with her family and close friends, describe the intricacies of her life not widely known – from nearly five years of muteness as a young girl, working as a Calypso dancer in New York City, to her friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King and her position in the Civil Rights Movement – and of course, her prodigious writing career.
Along with the likes of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Cicely Tyson, and many other towering figures, the film highlights the impact and longevity of Dr. Angelou’s works, such as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Heart of a Woman, and “On the Pulse of Morning”. A number of photographs of Dr. Angelou’s private collection, which had never been made public prior to the documentary, play prominently in visualizing her story. In combination, all of these aspects show both the depth of Dr. Angelou’s character, and the indelible mark she left on the US and abroad.
The IDP Foundation had the privilege of being one of the first organizations to financially support the documentary in 2014. Typical of grants the Foundation likes to make – catalytic capital – this grant was used to purchase Dr. Angelou’s life and story rights, as well as to cover initial production costs associated with conducting testimonial interviews in New York and Los Angeles. PBS’s American Masters provided the documentary with additional funding, before co-directors and producers Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack launched a Kickstarter campaign, successfully raising over $150,000 to cover the remaining costs and ensuring the film’s completion.
Hercules and Whack, along with Dr. Angelou’s son, director and producer Guy Johnson, have brought the documentary to a number of festivals around the world so far this year. Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise had its first premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah in January. It was met with a standing ovation, and all six showings at the festival were sold out. In April, it won the Best Documentary prize at the Fort Meyers Film Festival. The film has played in 25 festivals thus far, in numerous states like Florida, Oregon, Arkansas, and Missouri, among others – but it was also accepted in international festivals: DOXA in Vancouver, Canada, and Sheffield Doc Fest in England, UK. All the while, it has been garnering media attention from the likes of the Hollywood Reporter, featured in an interview with Democracy Now, and received four out of five stars in a review from The Guardian.
The IDP Foundation is a proud supporter of this important film, which honors Dr. Angelou’s incredible breadth of work and legacy, so that the world may appreciate and learn from her.