Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
Toni Morrison and her friends and admirers tell the story of one of America’s greatest storytellers in Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’s documentary on the literary and cultural giant. Morrison, the first black woman to win the Nobel prize for literature, has had an impact on the novel that is impossible to fit into an already lengthy 120 minutes. But Greenfield-Sanders’s elegant documentary alights at all the essential junctures, only struggling to match the effervescence of its star.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am attempts to piece together the Morrison’s influences, as well as the enduring influence she has had on others. Sequenced chronologically, the documentary revisits the moments and memories that made Morrison the person – not just the writer – she will forever be revered as. There’s a variety of recycled archival interviews from various chat shows, readings of archaic reviews belonging to an ignorant era, and newer, lighthearted interviews with an array of writers, critics, editors and friends. This healthy mixture takes us through Morrison’s life in depth yet, ironically enough given the film’s focus, unimaginatively.
There are, of course, insightful, delightful interviews with the subject of the documentary herself, taken shortly before her passing. It speaks to her ebullience and ability to captivate and entertain that Morrison is far and away the easiest and most enjoyable to listen to.
Approaching the end, the film focuses in on two of Morrison’s great literary achievements. Firstly the heady days of her Nobel prize triumph, and then, a little more tellingly, the release of Beloved in 1987. One line from the book stands out to the director and several interviewees: “And she was loved”, filling the air tantalisingly, inviting the audience to assent in knowing nods. Loved she was, and loved she shall be, by those involved in this documentary, by its audiences and her readers worldwide, and by future generations in perpetuity.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am is released in select cinemas on 6th March 2020.
Watch the trailer for Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am here: