Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun

Review Essay

            After watching the documentary on the life of Zora Neale Hurston, one gets to appreciate how special the writer was not only because of her literary achievements but also because of her attitude towards life.

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            The nice thing that I liked about the documentary is that it made Zora Neale Hurston’s spirited nature come alive through the footages it used to show how she viewed her African-American culture.  The video clips that were used were the ones the literary figure herself took and this helped so much in relaying how she felt about her traditions. The video clips were able to bring out the effort that she put in documenting the different aspects of African American culture like folklore, songs and music, religion, etc. The video clips with men and women using drums and other instruments (in what looked like a small living room of a simple house) to give their songs a beat and of the children dancing to one of their native songs was very nice for me because it showed how happy the people were with their culture.  When people think of the South and the Negroes at that time, it is usually about hardships.  But the video clips shown gave me the impression that through all the hardships that they faced, the people Zora Neale Hurston was showing were strong and happy.  They may have been suffering from too much slavery and injustice at that time but the video showed they were strong. And I think that this was exactly what Ms. Hurston wanted to show the world.  The documentary was able to proclaim what she herself wanted everyone to understand.

            I also liked the way that the voice of Zora Neal Hurston was used as part of the documentary to show how she felt about certain stuff.  “I do not belong to the Southern school of Negrohood”  was a sentence that I remembered so well because it showed how proud enough she was of her culture so that she does not like using the term “negrohood” as if they were so apart from the white culture. Another phrase that I could not forget was “I am not tragically colored” because it showed that she saw her people had very strong character.  The radio interview that was included in the film showed how frank Ms. Hurston was and how proud she was of her people.

            It was also good that there were many comments made by the people she was able to work with throughout her career. I still remember one description of her as something like she can tell you to go to hell and make you enjoy it.  I found it funny at first but showing how strong, lively and spunky Zora Neale Hurston was, it simply made sense.  It also kind of showed how she saw the sufferings of the African Americans were.  It was like hell but then life should be enjoyed.

            The film made me think of how hard it might really have been for Zora Neale Hurston to research, make and compile all those videos of her culture.  At that time, I suppose, women were not expected to take those long trips to rural places just for their passion of showing what true African American culture is. But then, she was described by the many interviews as someone who spoke her mind well and did not really care so much about what others thought of her views.  In fact, they said she seemed to like creating trouble with her opinions.

            The documentary film showed a little of how she became a strong woman because of her mother who taught her to be proud of who she is. The different household jobs she had to take before she could get a good education was also shown and this proves the “spunk” she had.  She was so strong that she would not let herself lose hope in getting what she wanted. However, there must have been much more that she had experienced for her to become that strong.

The many pictures that were shown showed a very lively person.  The smiles and grins that she had on her face showed that she was ready to challenge anyone who was in her way.  These simple photos by themselves are proof of how spunky she was.

            What I realized that the film did not show enough was on how she viewed her gender.  It must have been hard for her to achieve the things she did not only because of her color but also because she was a woman.  Although the film was well-researched,  having such a very energetic and strong-willed subject makes me think that there are more stories that could be used to show how she grew up so spunky.

            The film is a very good documentary on the life of a very great woman who seems to be ahead of her time.  Such bravery to face all of the challenges that came her way is hard to find even with people in our time.


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