For almost 10 years Oprah Winfrey has pursued her dream of bringing Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Beloved, to the big screen. Now that dream has been realized, and the process is described in Journey to Beloved. The most extraordinary thing about this production diary, and the essay that prefaces it, is the extent to which it reveals Oprah's private struggles. As director Jonathan Demme writes in the foreword, we all have an image of Oprah as a "Major Public Figure," and one might approach this book, and even the movie, with preconceptions about her. These preconceptions evaporate immediately. She is filled with doubts about her ability to play the central role of Sethe. Surrounded by more experienced moviemakers, from Demme to costar Danny Glover, she worries that she lacks the skill and the strength to carry a project that is so important to her. Oprah obviously feels a deep spiritual connection with the story she is committing to film. This connection, which is shared with the cast and crew of Beloved, comes through clearly in every diary entry:
Tomorrow is the first day of dialogue. Am I ready? I think so. I bring the force and grace of history and pain with me, carrying the Ancestors in my heart, hoping, but also knowing, they, too, carry me.... I ask God for grace, and the power of the spirits whose lives went unnoticed, demeaned and diminished by slavery. Calling on you. Calling on you. I try to prepare in terms of logic, reasoning, what would [Sethe] be thinking--chronologically--but I really believe I can call her up. Her and so many others. I'm counting on them.
Journey to Beloved is filled with wonderful, powerful, black-and-white production images by award-winning photographer Ken Regan. These, and the text that they accompany, lift this book far above anything that could be called a movie tie-in. It is the moving record of a journey from the birth of a dream to its fulfillment. --Simon Leake