November Filmanthropy Project: The Maya Angelou Documentary


When I am not at work at Picture Motion, you can most frequently find me with my eyes glued to a screen or my nose in a book. I can spend countless hours reading book after book after book. I am pretty open to all different genres and authors, but some of my favorites include Fitzgerald, Salinger, Doerr,  Moran to E.L. James (I’d be lying if I didn’t include her). So many words, so many books and they can all impact your life in some way.  

Every once in awhile, you come across a book that stands out from all others you’ve ever read. It reminds you that books and stories have an incredible power to impact the world. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou is a testament to that power. The autobiography was the first book that really touched and moved me. The words of her story spoke to me. I felt like I was able to gain real insight into someone else’s life and their experiences – which I found extremely exciting.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the first in a remarkable autobiographical series written by Maya Angelou. Originally published in 1969, the book chronicles the early years of Angelou’s life. It is a powerful coming of age story, that explores race, sexual abuse, identity and literacy. Angelou elegantly, and painfully, captures the experience of young female African-American growing up during the Depression in the South.

I distinctly remember finishing the book in the wee hours of the morning and immediately wanting to find out absolutely everything about Angelou’s life. This was pre-smartphone era – when I was at the mercy of sluggish dial-up internet – so I had to wait until I had access to my computer lab at school. My research into Angelou’s life was a deep rabbit hole – and since then I have been an avid fan of her life and work. I don’t need to list the many reasons why I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is one of the best books I have ever read, but if you haven’t read it, stop reading this blog, grab a copy and get cracking.

Needlessly to say, when I stumbled upon the a a Kickstarter campaign for a documentary film titled, The Maya Angelou Documentary, my Filmanthropy choice was a no-brainer.

Why This Film?

If you haven’t already figured it out – I am a huge fan of Angelou’s work, and in May 2014 when she passed away at the ripe age of 86, I was gutted. She was a renowned professor, poet and civil rights activist, and her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was the tipping point in my love for reading. More importantly, her literary work and social activism continues to bridge cultural divides exemplifies the power of art to unite people. Her impact goes far beyond her written work, her mere presence and voice were one of a kind. She once said:

Her voice and written word inspired generations of people to find their own voice and to fight for their rights and be their best selves. Angelou is universally admired as a powerful creative force, and her work remains an integral part of modern American Culture. Don’t believe me? Take President Barack Obama’s word for it:

Despite her tremendous impact and cultural contributions, there has yet to be a feature length documentary on her life. The team behind the The Maya Angelou Documentary is made up of her close friends and colleagues – giving audiences unprecedented and initiate access to the life of Angelou, from birth until death. The film will feature Angelou’s last interviews in January 2014, as well as interviews with president Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Common, and Dr. Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson.

This project represents an opportunity to gain an indepth and comprehensive understanding of the women that Maya was and to will allow future generations to appreciate her as much as I do.

The finished product, The Maya Angelou Documentary will air in 2016 on PBS’s American Masters.  

What’s the Impact?

The Maya Angelou Documentary has the opportunity to inspire multiple social action campaigns. Angelou was advocate for poetry, prose and the arts as a powerful tool to breakdown barriers between people. At a lecture at  Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia in 2013 she said,

The social action could have many legs, but the primary focus could focus on the critical role that art and literature play in social activism.

It is all too easy to see recent days has being filled devastation and hatred, but Angelou’s positive outlook and work should act as an anchor to all that is good with humanity, and inspire us to use our stories, words and art to create change in the world.

Support this Project!

Have a campaign focused on partnering with artist and activist today, in her honor. Find out more aboutThe Maya Angelou Documentary, consider supporting the Kickstarter campaign and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.


By Emma Ho: Campaign Manager, Marketing and Campaigns@emmaho13

Emma’s strong background in PR and marketing as well as her passion for documentary film enable her to provide multi-disciplinary solutions to clients at Picture Motion. Emma is currently completing a Master’s Degree in Media Studies at The New School with a concentration in new media, documentary, and film. After receiving an Honors BA degree in Art History at Queens University in Kingston, Canada, Emma pursued a graduate certificate in Public Relations at NYU. She is most interested in film centered on social issues and has been an asset to the Picture Motion campaigns.