In the early 2000’s, a girlfriend of mine from Georgia had a bootleg VHS tape of Madea, which had us howling with laughter. Little did I know, a short time afterwards, I would be directed and hired by Tyler Perry in a recurring role on his drama for the Oprah Winfrey Network – The Have and The Have Nots. Receiving the A-list treatment from Los Angeles to Atlanta, this experience gave me a much needed boost to my confidence resulting in my dreams being tied to the destiny of Tyler Perry, who is known for supporting and championing the underdog.
Maxine’s Baby chronicles the life and career of Perry revealing a life that has been by no stretch of the imagination an easy one. Directed by filmmakers Gelila Bekele and Armani Ortiz, the duo reveals to audiences some facts about this actor/filmmaker/producer that we are very familiar with and some others that will blow your mind.
19 television shows, 300 Madea performances a year, a New York Time bestselling author, Perry holds the record as the only filmmaker to open five films at number one opening weekend – a record not even Spielberg, Tarantino nor Scorsese can touch.
But, all this success doesn’t come without its pitfalls. Often accused of creating what one film pundit refers to as “cinematic malt liquor for the masses,” while continuing to perpetuate myths with stereotypical Black characters, Perry was steadfast in his belief that his projects were created for the culture.
Bekele and Ortiz don’t shy away from personal moments revealing emotional and physically challenging wounds from an abusive father, breaking that cycle with his own son, while coming to the realization that one’s parents have a story long before you defining who they are and how they navigate relationships with their children based on those experiences.
At the core, we learn this once aspiring pastor, who became the first Black man to own a major studio with 12 soundstages name after groundbreaking artists like Oprah Winfrey, Sidney Poiter and Ruby Dee is the product and vision of one person – his mother Maxine. Maxine’s love for her son drove him to be the very best in a world that seemed to want nothing to do with him.
Witnessing he and his Mom convey his chapters from a complicated life was uniquely beautiful and reminds me of Natalie Cole singing Mona Lisa alongside her then departed Dad Nat ‘King’ Cole. It’s one of many moments that will touch the soul and make you sob like a baby.
In the end, audiences will be inspired, enlightened and educated about a man we all thought we knew and is simply Maxine’s Baby boy. Having premiered at the 2023 AFI fest, this eye-opener will hit Prime Video