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Down in the Delta
Directed by Maya Angelou • 1998 • United States
Starring Alfre Woodard, Al Freeman Jr., Esther Rolle
The only film directed by the iconic writer, poet, and activist Maya Angelou is a warm, richly evocative celebration of black southern family and resilience. Alfre Woodard delivers a brilliant performance as a floundering, drug-addicted mother living in Chicago whose own mother sends her to stay with an uncle (Al Freeman Jr.) in the Mississippi Delta, where she gradually reconnects with her heritage and discovers strength in her roots. With her writer’s eye for detail and keen sense of character and place, Angelou crafts a bittersweet, deeply moving family portrait that ranks as one of the unsung gems of 1990s independent filmmaking. The marvelous supporting cast includes Esther Rolle (in her final film appearance), Loretta Devine, and Wesley Snipes, who also produced.