Wednesday, December 23, 1998

Down in the Delta

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 1998 at 12:00 AM

Conceived as "a lyrical ode to the notions of family, responsibility and pride in one's ancestry," Maya Angelou's Down in the Delta presents a sketchy clash between two worlds: that of the corrupt city and that of the peaceful small town.

The opposition between the ruthless cityscape (drugs, alcohol, gangs, graffiti) and the comforting countryside (clean diners, Sunday school, community spirit) is, unfortunately, not the only cliché in the film. Stereotypical characters with moralizing stories and unamazing insights work against the potential depth and universality of the script as well.

The first half of the film sets up the problems that the second half will solve. The single parent of two children -- an autistic little girl and an angry teenage boy -- Loretta (Alfre Woodard) spends her life in a drunken stupor: She can't hold a job; she doesn't get along with her mother (Mary Alice); she doesn't care about anything or anybody. Once she moves back to the family's ancestral home in the Mississippi delta, everything falls into place: She works in the family diner; she learns the truth about the family's tragic history (shown in repetitive flashbacks of exaggerated lyricism); she finds her way back to her mother's heart. As the film draws to its happy end, Loretta expands the family business; the autistic child speaks; and the family is reconciled forever.

Maybe the flaw lies in Myron Goble's less than subtle script which doesn't allow for a smooth translation of poetic images into film language. Maybe we're just tired of facile solutions. Whatever the cause, Down in the Delta looks like a crippled negotiation between Hate and Daughters of the Dust.


"How did you like the film, honey?"

"It wasted my time."

"But it was a good movie, all about family and community."

"But it wasted my time!"

Short and brutal, the kid's answer silences for a moment those who stop to listen, amused by the exchange -- and the truth about a naked emperor again finds refuge in the words of a child.

Send comments to


We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

More by Dayana Stetco

Read the Digital Print Issue

December 1, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation