BIOGRAPHY: A dense journey encompassing the life on Toni Morrison and her place in history.
Lauren Wissot
Lauren Wissot is a US film critic and journalist, filmmaker and programmer, and a contributing editor at both
Published date: November 14, 2019

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am is an intimate look at the life of the titular American icon by famed photographer/documentarian – and Morrison’s friend of over three-and-a-half decades – Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. This collaborative closeness between the filmmaker and his Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning subject proves critical, beyond merely allowing for unguarded access. In a swift-moving two hours Greenfield-Sanders (The Black List, Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart) manages to painstakingly and lovingly pack every «piece» of his dear friend that the Morrison fan and uninitiated alike would ever need in order to grasp her transformative effect on literature – redefining who gets to tell whose story – around the globe.

Grandmotherly warm and intimidatingly sharp

Morrison, equal parts grandmotherly warm and intimidatingly sharp onscreen wasn’t just a writer (and editor and teacher) but a force of nature. The author of such classics as The Bluest Eye, Sula and Song of Solomon, all of which are delved into deeply, Morrison was forever questioning why the world was the way it was. When it didn’t live up to her noble standards, she took action to change it (after all, this was a woman who defiantly took up the pen as a child, once she became aware that little black girls weren’t being taken seriously).

On hand to sing this radical artist’s praises are a venerable whos-who lineup of celebrity intellectuals. In addition to Morrison – the only talking head to speak directly to Greenfield-Sanders’s camera (mimicking the style of his still portraits) – the dozen other subjects include everyone from Angela Davis to Walter Mosley to Oprah Winfrey (who, of course, turned the bestselling Beloved into a feature film).

Smartly, the film is also heavily infused with the African-American experience via the inclusion of work by black visual artists – notably Jacob Lawrence, Kara Walker, and even


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1 COMMENT

  1. […] Toni Morrison never forgot a childhood conversation she’d had with an eleven-year-old friend who said she knew God didn’t exist because her prayers for blue eyes had gone unanswered. Out of this incident, Morrison developed her first novel, The Bluest Eye. Written in 1970, it’s about a black girl growing up during the Great Depression, who longs for some white facial characteristics to alleviate the debilitating social perception that she is «ugly». This is not the racism of lynchings or murders, but of internal pain, the famed African-American novelist says in Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am; the self-loathing that a child learns from a master narrative artificially determined and imposed by those in power of what constitutes worth and beauty. […]

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