The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974)

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974)
 
 

The Life of Jane

Cicely Tyson in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974)

Having just had her 109th birthday and god willing hoping to see her 110th, African American Jane Pittman (Cicely Tyson) is paid a visit from a reporter who having heard about her long life and having once been a slave wants to interview her. As Jane sits in her rocking chair on the porch of her old home she tells the reporter all about her life right from when as a young girl being a slave she remembered when in 1865 all slaves were set free and she head North to Ohio but was still confronted by racism through out her life.

One of my earliest memories was as a child watching "Roots" and whilst I haven't seen it since it had a lasting impression and in many ways is the mini-series which I hold many a movie to which aims to tell the story of racism and what African Americans faced over the years. As such whilst "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" was made 3 years before "Roots", having only just watched it I find myself impressed by it but not to the point that I find it up there with "Roots". Perhaps if "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" had been made as a mini-series it would have impressed more because at 110 minutes some of the episodes feel rushed and so lacking in real power.

But "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" is still a very powerful movie and scenes of racism, slavery and violence all have the desired effect whilst the details of the journey from slavery to the civil rights movement is very effective especially for those who are not American and so don't know their American history. Much of what is good about it comes from the performance of Cicely Tyson who takes us on this journey with an effective narration as the elderly character of Jane but also bringing light and shade to the performance as the younger Jane in flashbacks as we get to see the events in her life. We get to see her determination but also moments of fear as she is confronted by racism and violence.

What this all boils down to is that "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" is a very effective drama which takes us from the slavery of the 1860s to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, detailing the many ups and downs in the life of the character Jane. Its one major problem is that it is unable to do justice to all the episodes with some of them feeling rushed over to fit in to a movie which is less than 2 hours long.

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