Pratibha Parmar’s documentary Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth is a poetic portrait to the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer.
Using interviews, extensive archival materials, and readings from Walker’s works, Parmar’s documentary tells Walker’s life story from her birth in the deep South to her current peace along the ocean.
Walker herself plays a key role in recounting her own life so far. Other interviews come with important people in her life, including her former husband, past lovers, and siblings, along with other authors and experts who provide insight into Walker as a person, an activist, and as a writer, even though those three roles are inseparable for her.
Parmar’s documentary has a poetic quality in its visual style, and I appreciate her attention to these details. The overall effect is contemplative and deep, much like Walker herself. Shots of nature, including the ocean, trees, and birds, weave among the interviews. Instead of presenting Walker just reading from a book, Parmar uses visuals of the handwritten work and others to illustrate what we hear.
Walker has experienced innumerable challenges throughout her life, and the documentary addresses these issues head on, without glossing them over as might happen in other biographical documentaries. Born in Eatonton, Georgia, in 1944, Walker faced the racial discrimination of the era and the region while growing up and living there. Her interracial marriage was legal in New York but illegal in the South. She faced backlash for her political activism starting when she was as a college student, and even her work drew strong criticism from various parties.
A notable, but expected, absence from the documentary is Rebecca Walker, her only daughter. The discord of their relationship has played out in the media, and the documentary takes care not to sensationalize them further while offering more insight into the situation.
Overall, Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth is a fitting tribute to one of the most important writers of our time.