The first definitive feature-length biography about Zora Neale Hurston was broadcast on PBS' American Masters series to wide acclaim across America.
Winner: BEST EDUCATIONAL FILM at the International Festival du Film sur l'Arts in Montreal (2009).
Zora Neale Hurston was the Queen of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. She was one of America's most widely-published novelists in the 1930s, and would eventually become world-famous for her masterpiece novel Their Eyes Were Watching God about a young black woman's search for freedom and identity. Trained as an anthropologist by cultural modernist Franz Boas, Zora traveled the American South and the Caribbean through Guggenheim grants, documenting the culture of ex-slaves, filming them, interviewing them, recording their music and their tales. Her keen ear for dialect and her ability to render black speech into readable dialogue endeared her to many loyal readers, both black and white. Her name was a common by-line in magazines of the 1940s, reflecting the conservative beliefs she had acquired growing up in Eatonville Florida, the first all-black city in America. Her politics of positive self-help and accommodation made her enemies with Northern black intellectuals who wanted black writers to fight for their race. With her writing in a tail-spin, she struggled to protect her reputation from a scandal over trumped-up charges she abused two young Harlem boys. Disturbed by the false allegations, she moved back to the comfort of her native Florida in the 1950s, where the fight for Civil Rights and integration was beginning to take center stage. Her voice in support of the individual was overwhelmed by the urgent needs of the black majority for racial equality. She would eventually die in poverty in a small Florida beach town, no longer published nationally, fishing her days away while writing a column for a local newspaper. Black women writers eventually resurrected her, and interest in her work continues to climb.
This dvd is for home use. Schools, libraries and museums must contact California Newsreel for a version with public performance rights. This version carries a verbal and visual WARNING at the beginning and end of the film.
"A fully rounded, intriguing account of an exuberant, independent woman who, in the words of her mother, refused to hide her gleam." --Chicago Tribune
"Does a fine job outlining Hurston's life and her near miraculous achievements, drawing on an unusually impressive and interesting group of talking heads." --New York Times
"An exhilarating portrait of an exhilarating woman." --Newsday