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The Human Cost of Stuff

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"Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth" Is as Beautiful Visually as It Is Spiritually

Filmmaker Pratibha Parmar's presentation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s life will inspire you.

Beauty in Truth, Pratibha Parmar's documentary about the life and work of the author Alice Walker, is a deeply moving film that deserved the standing ovations at its premiere screenings this spring.

Walker is best known as the author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning epistolary novel, The Color Purple, but Parmar shows the extensive cultural impact of her lifetime of writing and activism.

Beauty in Truth PosterWalker's work is rooted in the experience of the African ­American community of her birth. The revolutionary years of the civil rights movement when she came of age are shown through archival footage and the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., who deeply influenced Walker’s thinking and work. Walker went on to become one of the thought leaders of feminism, so her story is told partly through interviews with prominent women activists from the 1960s and '70s.

Walker herself provides much of the narration in extended, candid interviews with the filmmaker. Interspersed are interviews with her family, and friends such as Danny Glover, Angela Davis, Howard Zinn, Gloria Steinem, Quincy Jones, Sonia Sanchez, Sapphire, and Steven Spielberg. Each illuminates a different aspect of Walker’s life: childhood, college years, marriage, divorce, parenting. The personal is interwoven with the political—Walker’s marriage at a time when that interracial union was illegal in Mississippi, and her lifelong activism for human rights, feminism, animals, and the environment. She is the author of more than 30 books of fiction, essays, poetry, and memoir, brought Zora Neale Hurston into the literary canon, and helped open the literary gates for other women of color.

Walker has sometimes endured harsh and unfounded criticism for her honesty, but she has acted on her convictions time and time again. Her life, as presented by Parmar, inspires with a truth that is as beautiful visually as it is spiritually. It’s a must-see.


Heidi Hutner bioHeidi Hutner wrote this article for The Human Cost of Stuff, the Fall 2013 issue of YES! Magazine. Hutner is a professor of sustainability, English, and gender studies at Stony Brook University. She is completing an environmental memoir and keeps the blog Ecofeminist and Mothering Ruminations.

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