Maya Angelou is coming to Pitt

Did you know that I won a poetry reading contest in 10th grade by performing Maya Angelou’s A Caged Bird? Well, I did.

“All great achievements require time.” Maya Angelou said that. Did you know that Maya Angelou is coming to Pitt on October 1st? Well, she is.

It’s crazy how the world works isn’t it? What are the chances that we would be assigned this video for class and that the subtitle of that video would be the words of a speaker who is coming to our school in a few weeks?

It puts a spotlight on one meaning of the video.

From the very beginning of the documentary, this boy seemed so far away. Almost like he was from a different time – born and died centuries ago. The life that he lives is so unrecognizable to me, that I can’t help but separate myself from his life.

And then I see the poster. “All great achievements require time.”

It was like a slap in the face.

This person, this boy, he knows the words I know. He lives by the words that I live by. We’re so much closer than I ever imaged we could be. And I didn’t need words. I’m pretty sure the director knew his audience wouldn’t need words. We just had to see it. This is one strategy that the director used. The lack of speech forced the audience to pay attention to everything else. The small space Amar and his family were crammed in to. The bucket of water that Amar dumped on his head to get clean. They had to listen to the crickets and roosters to know the time. It’s incredible to think that we could learn so much about someone’s life just by watching and listening the world around them. The lack of words said almost everything. Almost everything, because the words that Amar did speak said the rest. When reading from a school textbook he recites, “…and the artist could not make beautiful things. We have gotten so used to them that we do not notice them any more than we notice the air.”

I’m not sure whether that line was intentional, but it says so much about the way that we live. We are surrounded by so much beauty and luxury that after a while, we stop appreciating it. It takes a documentary like this one to remind us of everything that we have.

The second strategy that I noticed was that the director provided us with a lot of close ups – of Amar, of his bike, of the food. This helped us to see though Amar’s eyes and close that separation that we establish at the beginning of the film. The more details that we know about Amar’s life, the more that we can compare it to our own.

My question is: How would speech have changed the film? Would it have provided us with a deeper understanding, or would it have taken away from the message that the director was trying to articulate?

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