Voices of Power: African-American Women. Series Title: I Am Woman 1999
Distributed by Films for the Humanities and Sciences, P.O. Box 2053, Princeton, NJ 08543-2053; 800-257-5126
Produced by Michael W. Doyle for the University of Notre Dame
VHS, color, 29 min.
Women's Studies, African American Studies, Sociology, Communication, Literature
Date Entered: 11/09/2018Reviewed by Ruth Maddox Swan, Director of Media Resources, Oakwood College, Huntsville, AL
Voices of Power raises the viewer's consciousness to the "change momentum" that the writings of African-American women enjoy during modern times. The writer, Karen Heisler, and executive producer, Michael W. Doyle, accomplish this raised consciousness by documenting the increased and diverse readership of the literature of African-American women writers. They suggest reasons for this wave of literature, query the primary and underlying conditions for the success of any literature, and explore the ability of these writings to transcend gender, race, and ethnicity. Voices of Power presents insightful and interesting interviews of African-American women writers Alice Walker and Bell Hooks, with commentary from Ohio State University faculty Drs. Martha Wharton and Valerie Lee.
Recognition of the issues surrounding the difficulty that African-American writers have experienced over the years in being heard could have strengthened the content of this title. Concluding narrative suggests: "Perhaps the reason why many African-American women are capturing the attention of mainstream America is because they have a lot to say." I would think that African-American women have always had a lot to say. What are the underlying issues that have resulted in the delayed popularity and acceptance of these works?
Voices of Power could have been strengthened also by exposing viewers to lesser-known African-American women writers. The narrative notes the wave of publication of writings by African-American women, but only two high-profile writers were selected for inclusion in this production. There are at least two titles that would balance this very fine presentation. In Conversations With Black Writers (Films for the Humanities, 1992), Phil Donahue interviews five Black writers. Though presented in a talk show format, hard questions are asked and a foundation is set for pursuing an understanding of the literature of Black women. The Writers in Conversation Series (Anthony Roland Collection - ICA Video) includes presentations of African-American women writers reading their works. These presentations are stimulating and insightful, and would work well as a follow-up to Voices of Power.
This title presents well. It is free of technical production flaws. The production seamlessly transports the viewer from interview to commentary and to other supporting footage. It is an engaging production. The film is very well paced (a mere 29 minutes) and does not suffer the tedium of lengthy "talking head" interviews. This title would be an excellent addition to academic libraries in support of literature, women's studies, Black studies, communications, and even sociology programs. It could also be useful at the senior high school level.