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Opens Friday, November 3


“I say, the trip to Mars can only be understood through Black Americans /… When we go to Mars… / It's Middle Passage.” Poet and activist Nikki Giovanni—witty, no-nonsense, brilliant—resists the conventional in life and art, more than ever at age 80. Promoting a new poetry collection while fighting breast cancer and reconciling with her son, Giovanni also resists the straightforward documentary probe—“I remember what is important and I make up the rest.” Filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson (AMERICAN PROMISE) craft a rich, inventive portrait imbued with Giovanni’s poetry (voiced by Taraji P. Henson), intercut with hilariously spiky speaking gig highlights (re: her mastectomy + new hearing aid, “I took a tit off and added an ear”) and archival clips, including Giovanni’s legendary 1971 conversation with James Baldwin. Winner of the 2023 Sundance Grand Jury Prize (U.S. Documentary).

Presented with support from the Richard Brick, Geri Ashur, and Sara Bershtel Fund for Social Justice Documentaries and the Ada Katz Fund for Literature in Film

2023     102 MIN.     USA


“[Nikki Giovanni] is a vibrant, prickly, unpredictable presence in both private and public life, and hearing her read her own poetry is even better than reading it on the page.”
– Amy Taubin, Artforum

“As innovative and unpredictable as its subject, GOING TO MARS travels through time and space, using intimate vérité, live poetry readings, and revealing archival footage to showcase the power and influence of idiosyncratic artist and social activist Nikki Giovanni, who looks back through turbulent decades of American history that she observed and survived, at the same time that she contends with seizures and memory loss.”
– Anne Thompson, IndieWire

“An imaginative project merging memory and fantasy…a journey through Giovanni’s memories and experiences, with all the disjointed associations and recollections typical of the human mind drawn together and made into a cogent and beautiful assemblage of an artist’s life.”
– Aviva Dove-Viebahn, Ms. Magazine

“Michèle Stephenson and Joe Brewster’s inventive, beautifully crafted documentary takes us on an ongoing adventure with the iconic poet. Like 2016’s I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO… GOING TO MARS responds creatively to the call of its ingenious subject thanks to the directors’ soulful grasp of her work, and Terra Long and Lawrence Jackman’s skillful editing. Greg Harriott’s cinematography delivers clear-eyed close-ups of the poet’s face, but then hints at the ethereal with more cosmic, otherworldly double-exposed images.”
– Lisa Kennedy, Variety

Film Forum