While the civil rights movement was heating up in the United State’s (in 1962) Miss Jane Pittman (Cicely Tyson) turned 110. A journalist (Michael Murphy) from New York drives up to Pittman’s modest home and requests to interview her. This was considered the inciting incident which was illuminated by the dialogue resulting from the journalists request to interview Jane:
“You were a slave.”
“There were hundreds of slaves.”
“You are still alive.”
Pittman talks to the stranger openly of her life, considering her experiences with Caucasians her reluctance was very atypical. She seemed to have deemed that she must tell someone of her life and a Yankee with no perception of the South is as good as anyone and if he uses her story in a liberal magazine to remind people of what it was like when the slaves were freed, that was alright as well. As the film continued we went on to learn a great deal of Miss Jane Pittman and her life, the ordeals and hardships she faced were ghastly.
The stones that Pittman holds dear are a significant symbol of her affection for loved ones and her misfortunes. The two deaths of Jimmy (Arnold Wilkerson) and Ned (Thalamus Rasulala) were very ironic for me because Ned and Jimmy were both alike in some ways but the irony was that they both were educated and spoke out for equality and against slavery and were both murdered for there attempts. The conclusion of the film seemed to immortalize Miss Jane Pittman and her life long struggle for equality.
Tyson’s performance is in one word outrageous in the way that a lady of 41 can mimic, with such detail, the emotional and physical characteristics of a young girl followed by a middle aged woman all the way to a very old and frail woman. The acting of all other actors was also quite exceptional throughout the film. It was disappointing to observe that the film was deficient of artistic merit and cinematic ambition. The director seemed to have neglected his role in producing the film which was observed throughout the film. Pittman’s tale, with its adversity and tragedy, had a remarkable plot full of action and many moral messages. The film sets the stage for what is to come and gently recognizes the courage of many non-violent protests.