Stage and screen legend Ruby Dee, who personified grace, grit and progress at a time when African-American women were given little space in movies and on stage, died Wednesday in New Rochelle, N.Y. She was 91Dee was a frequent presence on New York stages for four decades, since joining the American Negro Theatre in 1941 before her stage debut two years later in the Broadway drama “South Pacific.”
Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee, the documentary about the iconic Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee by their grandson Muta’Ali, will have its world premiere at Film Life’s 18th Annual American Black Film Festival on Sunday, June 22 in New York City. The film—part tribute, part history lesson and part coming-of-age story—give viewers an intimate look into the remarkable lives of the couple many consider the all-time king and queen of Black Hollywood.
Stunnedby the death of his grandfather, Muta’Ali moves to New York to be able to spend more time with his grandmother and to get answers to some of his burning questions. The film, produced by Jevon “NJ” Frank, follows Muta’Ali as he delves into chapters of their lives that span the 20th and 21st centuries, posing probing questions to his grandmother as well as to celebrity friends, costars and fellow activists of the star couple in his search for his own life’s path. Alan Alda, Angela Bassett, Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Hill Harper, Samuel Jackson, Spike Lee, Sonia Sanchez and Dr. Cornel West are among the notables who offer insights into and memories of the couple’s love, art and activism. Davis weighs in, too, speaking to his grandson through never-before-seen footage and memorabilia from the Davis-Dee family archives.
Along the way, Muta’Ali lays bare the rich history of Davis and Dee, who played pivotal roles in the civil rights struggle through their social activism, while maintaining illustrious careers in the arts and a full family life.
“To admire and speak highly of my grandparents is easy, but to apply their principles in my own life has proven less so. There is self-discovery in the vast space between what I look up to—their 56 year marriage, their socially conscious career choices, and their bravery in the struggle—and what I may be willing to practice,” said Muta’Ali.
Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee will be screened on Sunday, June 22 at 1:50 pm at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) Theatre, 333 West 23 Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan. (Take the A, C, E or 1 to 23rd Street.) Tickets are $12.00 and can be purchased by visiting www.abff.com.
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God Bless her soul.
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