“With all my heart I believe to live life is to dream it first,” wrote Maya Angelou in a column for Essence magazine in 1975 titled “The Woman I Thought I’d Be.” “One is never too old to make that dream come true — to become the woman one thinks to be.”
That year, Maya Angelou, who died in 2014, would become the first Black woman to join the Directors Guild in the director’s category. To help kickoff Women’s History Month, the UCLA Film & Television Archive in partnership with the Black Feminism Initiative in the UCLA Center for the Study of Women will show “The Tapestry” as part of its on-going Virtual Screening Room on March 4.
“The mythology of Hollywood during the 1970s is that anyone who was young, ambitious and loved movies, could make a feature film, and in this equation, Maya Angelou was a prime candidate,” said Maya Montañez Smukler, head of research and education for the UCLA Film & Television Archive, a division of the UCLA Library.
Montañez Smukler is the author of “Liberating Hollywood: Women Directors & the Feminist Reform of 1970s American Cinema” (Rutgers University Press).
“However,” she said, “those directing opportunities were available to predominately white men only.”
Though Angelou wouldn’t direct her first feature film until 1998, “Down on the Delta” starring Alfre Woodward and Wesley Snipes, the 1970s were formative years in which she began to hone her skills behind the camera. In 1971, she adapted for the screen her best-selling autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” and was announced as the film’s director, before the project was made for television in 1979 and directed by Fielder Cook.
Angelou was a participant in the first year of the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women, in 1974, where she wrote and directed the short film “All Day Long.” In 1976, she directed two short films, “The Tapestry” and “Circles,” both written by Alexis DeVeaux, for the KCET/PBS television anthology series “Visions.” Each story centers on a young Black woman’s coming of age confronted with the demands of family and social expectations as she struggles towards adulthood.
“The Tapestry” was preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by the Women’s Film Preservation Fund of New York Women in Film & Television and is screened courtesy of KCETLink.
Following the free screening there will be a conversation between Montañez Smukler and Ellen Scott, associate professor of film and media studies.