A Litany for Survival: The Life and Work of Audre Lorde

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


Audre Lorde is one of those fearless, generous, and outspoken people by which America defines itself. “We live in a world of intense contradiction,” she observes in the opening moments of the film, a cameo portrait of an extraordinary individual who blazed many new trails in society. As model and inspiration to a generation, Audre Lorde has been called a counterpart to Malcolm X in contemporary American history. Poet, essayist, and civil rights activist, this African-American lesbian mother is the paradigm of someone living an active and passionate life. Using the weapons of language and grace, Audre Lorde refused to be prejudged and turned survival into an art.

Lorde died in her early sixties of breast cancer, but not before writing about her disease to help other women. The core of A Litany for Survival is a series of interviews with Lorde during her last years, in which, although weakened, she was still productive and feisty. The film traces Lorde’s biography from a Harlem childhood to being named New York state poet, and seamlessly weaves archival footage with conversations with Lorde and interviews with other writers and artists, including Adrienne Rich, Sonia Sanchez, Sapphire, and Essex Hemphill.

Washington, D.C., filmmaker Michelle Parkerson is a noted documentarian who, eager to share “untold history,” has for the past fifteen years been recording the life of African-American women in the performing arts. In A Litany for Survival, Parkerson and collaborator Ada Gay Griffin compellingly show what makes this woman “so important to so many people across different cultures.

— Laurence Kardish

Screening Details

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