Here's Why Oprah Couldn't Fund the Maya Angelou Documentary

Filmmaker Rita Coburn Whack says getting money from someone featured in the film would go against “journalistic integrity.”

Everyone’s talking about filmmakers Rita Coburn Whack and Bob Hercules’ Maya Angelou documentary, which premieres at the Sundance Film Festival this week.

More than a few of us have wondered out loud why Coburn Whack and Hercules had to crowd fund the project when one of Angelou’s closest friends was Oprah Winfrey. ‘Why not ask Oprah?’ is everyone’s favorite refrain.

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Coburn Whack—a former producer for Dr. Angelou’s talk show, which aired on Oprah Radio on Sirius XM—says of course they considered asking Winfrey but they couldn’t because the doc will be airing on PBS' American Masters this Spring and there are strict guidelines. “We’re public TV… there is a journalistic integrity that the people that are in your film can’t fund it,” Coburn told The Wrap at Sundance.

“Even my best friends would say the same thing… Just get Oprah to fund it,” she added.

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Well, there you have it.

In an interview with Time, Coburn Whack and Hercules shared that they had spent nearly four years shooting interviews with Dr. Angelou and some of her closest friends, including Winfrey and President Bill Clinton. They captured hours of interviews with Angelou. “It’s like a Forrest Gump experience where she was at all these amazing moments,” said Hercules. “The scope of her life is astounding to me.”

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