Georgia, Georgia begins with an aging vocal diva (stage and screen legend Diana Sands) deplaning in Stockholm right into an airport press conference, where she gives snappy answers and winks flippantly for reporters. As a Black American woman in 1972, Georgia is asked about the Black Power movement, the Vietnam War and the women’s liberation movement, none of which she has much of an opinion on. This, it’s soon obvious, is Georgia’s public face, an apolitical, well-appointed vehicle for songs and photographs, and not much else. As soon as Georgia gets into her hotel room, away from the cameras and the unfamiliar white faces, she takes off her wig, her fake eyelashes, her earrings and her shoes, and allows her personal assistant/mother figure to brush her hair and sing to her: her true self.
Georgia, Georgia is a cinematic oddity; a Swedish film written by Maya Angelou, not only is it the only theatrical feature written by Angelou, it is often cited as the first ever screenplay written by a Back woman. Angelou wrote the script and the score, but apparently had very little else to do with the film. Angelou told The New York Times, “I don’t believe that control of black films must always be in a black person’s hands. But any white person involved in a black story should be respectful of the black person’s sensibilities on the subject.” Director Stig Björkman thankfully takes a more observational than heavy-handed approach to the story of Black Americans in Sweden, and Angelou’s mastery of language — a beautiful parable here, a poetic monologue there - and bone-deep womanism shine throughout the film.
“Why do they want to make me superhuman? I want to be just plain Georgia,” she wails to no one, exhausted from the effort of managing her career, her personal life and everyone around her, all while maintaining a perfect veneer, at the cost of losing everything. This low-budget, low-key Swedish drama improbably tells a raw, honest story about the Black experience across the generations in the 70s; very rarely screened, Film Forum has it on 35mm.
Georgia, Georgia is on YouTube (March 2021)