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Toni Morrison: The Pieces I am

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders | US 2019 | 119 min | OV
Mit: Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, Fran Lebowtiz, Oprah Winfrey

Das großartige beim Sundance Filmfestival gefeierte Filmportrait der Jahrhundert-Autorin Toni Morrison (1931-2019). Österreich-Premiere im Filmhaus.

»Moving and profound. Look for this one to be front and center come Oscar time.« Los Angeles Times

Literaturnobelpreisträgerin Toni Morrison (1931-2019) ist eine der wichtigsten Personen im Kulturleben der letzten 100 Jahre, nicht nur weil sie den Status von Frauen und von Afro-Amerikaner*innen in den USA nachhaltig verändert hat, sondern vor allem weil sie schreiben konnte, wie kaum jemand. Sie hat der Weltliteratur Meisterwerke von THE BLUES EYE bis BELOVED geschenkt.

Regisseur und Photograph Timothy Greenfield-Sanders war seit 1981 mit Toni Morrison befreundet. Sein Film TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM ist ein kunstvoller und intimer Einblick in das Leben, das Werk und die großen Themen Morrisons, das schon bei der Weltpremiere beim Sundance Film Festival von der Presse bejubelt wurde.

Er erzählt von ihrer Kindheit in der Stahlstadt Lorrain, Ohio, ihren 70er-Jahre Lesereisen mit Muhammed Ali und ihren Kämpfen an vorderster Front mit Angela Davis. Aus seltenen Archivaufnahmen und Interviews mit ihr selbst und Zeitgenoss*innen wie Walter Mosley, Fran Lebowtiz und Oprah Winfrey (durch deren Book Group Morrison einem großen Publikum bekannt wurde) entsteht eine spannende filmische Erkundung von Rasse, Geschichte, Amerika und der condition humaine.

Besonders sehenswert sind auch die kunstvolle Eröffnungssequenz von Michalen Thomas, die in collagenartigen Bildern Morrisons Gesicht aus ihren verschiedenen Lebensabschnitten vereint, und Werke von zeitgenössischen afro-amerikanischen Künstler*innen wie Kara Walker, Rashid Johnson und Kerry James Marshall

»Toni Morrison’s transformative impact on the American literary landscape is celebrated in Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’ inspiring doc. His film is enlivened both by its own storytelling dexterity and by the participation of its subject, who at 87 years old remains as warm, vibrant and insightful as ever.«Variety

In Kooperation mit BUCH WIEN


On February 9, 1981, Toni Morrison entered my small East Village photo studio for a Soho News cover shoot. She wore a dark suit with a white blouse and smoked a pipe. I had no photo assistants and hung all of the nine-foot-wide backdrops myself.

At this point in her career she was a full-time writer. “Tar Baby,” her fourth novel, was in print. Her days as an editor at Random House were nearly over, and she no longer needed to teach to support her two sons.

It was an instant friendship. She recognized she could trust me as a photographer, something I always hope for in a photo shoot. This trust continued over the years as I took more portraits for her books and their press. When Vanity Fair profiled her, she insisted that only I could shoot her. They put me on the masthead soon after.

I was thrilled for her when she won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993.

In 2006, at a portrait shoot in my studio for “Margaret Garner,” Toni’s new opera based on the “Beloved” story, we discussed all the remarkable black divas she had interviewed for the production. “We should do a book about them – I’ll write the text and you take the photos,” she said. That conversation sparked an idea to document discussions on identity by leading African Americans – musicians, politicians, writers and CEOs. Toni agreed to sit as our first subject. In 2008, my feature length documentary, The Black List: Volume 1, premiered at Sundance and aired on HBO. The project also included my portrait photography, a book and traveling exhibitions. Many volumes and iterations of “List” films followed.

In 2014, I suggested a documentary about her life. At this point, Toni Morrison was world famous but quite private. She was reluctant to talk about herself and hesitant about the hours required for filmed interviews. But she didn’t say no. I explained how important I thought it would be to hear from her friends and colleagues and to capture on film her history, accomplishments and the important themes of her many works. Hers was a monumental life that had impacted the world’s culture. A life that deserved an important documentary. It was also a film I really wanted to make.

Eventually, Toni agreed.

Conceptually, of the film’s 13 interviews only Toni would be filmed in my direct-to-camera style. Only she would look into the camera, directly addressing the viewer. Toni was open and intimate, thought-provoking and emotional. The result is powerful and historic. Our long friendship – nearly 38 years – comes through on camera. – Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

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