"I've been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister, and friend since my 20’s. She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ is one of my best lessons from her. She won three Grammys, spoke six languages and was the second poet in history to recite a poem at a presidential inauguration. But what stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds." -Oprah

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

Yolanda Sangweni
Jan, 25, 2016

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.”