By Logan Holloway
Genius. Icon. The Shakespeare of America.
The man who gave an entire culture a voice in a place where they had barely ever had a whisper. August Wilson was this and so much more.
The legendary playwright spent his entire life working for the betterment of his people's way of life, both on the stage and off, and while the success of his mission may reside in the eye of the beholder, none can claim that the barriers he took a hammer to were greatly weakened by his swings. His work was never short of admirers in the black community, nor any other for that matter, and neither was the man himself.
In "August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand", many of his colleagues, including Laurence Fishburne, Viola Davis and James Earl Jones, share their experiences and memories this great man left them with. The documentary is a great watch and a loving tribute to a man who, though he was an expert at crafting captivating stories and colorful characters, may have been an even more fascinating one himself.
The film follows the life of Wilson from his early childhood and on throughout his career, showing us the role models who helped shape who he became as a man, and the many acquaintances he encountered throughout his time that would go on to shape many of his most entertaining characters. With a mixture of footage starring Wilson himself and intercut interviews of his most admiring fans, we are able to connect with a man that many outside of theater circles may never have even heard of. We get to see both sides of his life - the jobs, people and places he was surrounded by his whole life that could always find some version of themselves on his page. We also get a glimpse into the gritty realities he faced as black man in a bleak era of our country's history from the time he could walk, which gave him the perseverance to continue his work, to continue to amplify his voice.
As we near the end of the story, the end of the life of this great man, it can be saddening to see how little some things have changed in our world. Wilson may have lived in a post-integration world, but sometimes it seemed as if he, much like the rest of us, could feel the separations remain, as real as if there were still signs marking our drinking fountains. This movie, however, is not one to be viewed with sadness at the knowledge that this same fight goes on today as it did back then. Rather, it is one to be seen as triumphant and to fill us with hope and assuredness, that the darkness of resentment and disrespect cannot linger when great men and women take up the torches to bring in the light.
August Wilson was one of these greats, and "The Ground on Which I Stand" is his story. Watch it and remember. Watch it and pick up a torch of your own.
"August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand" runs 84 minutes and will be showing with Film Block 1, beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Campus Theatre. Visit the Denton Black Film Festival website for more information and see here for the full schedule and to purchase tickets.