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Rodrick F. Wimberly
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James Earl Jones,
Louis Gossett Jr.
Beginning during the racial turmoil of 1960s Louisiana, 110-year-old ex-slave Jane Pittman grants an interview to a persistent journalist and relates the remarkable story of her life. Orphaned early, she toils on a plantation until a chance meeting with a white Union soldier named Brown changes her outlook. Jane's emancipation marks only the beginning of an arduous and heartbreaking odyssey, framed by the horrors of slavery and the justice of the civil rights movement.Written by
With these words Miss Jane Pittman, speaking of an ancient, imposing oak tree, sums up her own 110 years of life. And they also sum up this magnificent, made for TV film.
I saw this film, only once, when it was first aired on CBS. In those times of the Vietnam antiwar protests and Civil Rights struggles, it made an indelible impression on a young college student... an impression that has remained, strong and bright now as it was then, over the 30 years since it's initial release.
When at long last the film became available on DVD, getting it was a no brainer. Even tho it's 30 years old now, the film has lost none of it's emotional impact.
This film and one other (I WILL FIGHT NO MORE FOREVER, outlining the battle by Chief Joseph to lead his people to freedom away from the reservation) were sponsored by the Xerox Corporation. Both projects were a spin off of the "Xerox Park" experiment; an attempt to spur technological progress in a cloistered hothouse environment of intellectuals, while at the same time fulfilling their perceived social responsibility to enhance American culture.
The Xerox Park experiment produced a number of worthwhile products; it advanced electronics and computer technology to lay the foundations that produced the first personal computers, it produced what I consider the best book outlining strategic thought in chess that's ever been written, and it's direct sponsorship produced these two films.
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN is is an historical tour de force that tells the story of Black people in America from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement and the space age in the 1970s, as seen through to eyes of a 110 year old woman who had lived through it all.
With simplicity and an immense dignity Jane Pittman speaks of the Reconstruction period in the deep South, with it's struggles for Black self determination and betterment, the constant terror of the Ku Klux Klan to thwart those efforts, and the legacy of racism that White America used as it fought those efforts at social advancement and equality, right up to the present day.
Cicely Tyson's performance as Miss Jane is MAGNIFICENT. The makeup that gradually changes her from a young woman in her 20s to a 110 year old woman is remarkable.
The ending is one of the most emotional and moving things ever produced for a TV movie... with simple, fearless dignity, Miss Jane Pittman makes her final, and most magnificent stand against the racism that she'd known all her life.
A film not to be missed. Ten stars.
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