The Brussels art project RECOGNITION, which has showcased African and African diaspora art since it was created in 2016 by event organiser and photographer Lyse Ishimwe, is doing important work. Last Friday we attended the James Baldwin documentary feature “I Am Not Your Negro”, directed by Raoul Peck, which was an incredibly profound experience that begs extensive reading and thought in order to be fully unpacked. Merely two weeks later, RECOGNITION and Cinema Galeries are set to premiere the Sundance-acclaimed “Maya Angelou – And Still I Rise” documentary, telling the tale of the life and work of the incredible Maya Angelou. Brussels is bringing so much black people magic to the silver screen, we’re here for every part of it.
Titled after Maya Angelou’s seminal 1978 poetry volume “And Still I Rise”, this documentary directed by Rita Coburn Whack and Bob Hercules is the first film to tell the story of the unbelievable journey Maya Angelou embarked on from a very early age. It features little-known facts and intimate archive images of Maya Angelou’s early life, from growing up in the Depression-era South to her beginnings as a dancer and activist – all before she was known as the iconic poet and author we cherish so deeply today. The film is peppered with a series of interviews with friends and family like (queen) Oprah Winfrey, Common, Cicely Tyson, Alfre Woodard and Maya Angelou’s son Guy Johnson. The film was largely funded through crowdfunding, since it blew everyone’s mind that there had never been an official documentary on Maya Angelou before.
The premiere screening is being organised in tandem with Afrika Filmfestival Leuven, Warrior Poets and Tropismes Librairie. Going back to the 2017 Belgian premiere of “Moonlight” to last week’s “I Am Not Your Negro”, it still feels amazing to keep seeing black art drawing full-house crowds and relieving heavy spirits with these dark-room sessions of shared consciousness. The fact that these premieres are accompanied by emboldening forewords, and in the case of the “I Am Not Your Negro” premiere a chilling reading of James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time”, makes them even more valuable. Initiatives like RECOGNITION are such a good way to fire up activism in all its forms and at the very least gets important conversations going.