Manthia Diawara
Angela Davis: A World of Greater Freedom, 2023

Still: Courtesy of the artist and Lumiar Cité / Maumaus, Lisbon

Single-channel installation, color sound
Commissioned by Sharjah Art Foundation with major funding from the Mellon Foundation, co-commissioned by TBA21 Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary with the support of Centro Cultural de Belém Foundation, Lisbon, and Portuguese Ministry of Culture / Directorate-General for the Arts. Produced by Lumiar Cité / Maumaus, Lisbon.

Collection of TBA21Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary
In 2022, filmmaker Manthia Diawara began documenting his conversations with US philosopher, writer, and activist Angela Davis in and around her hillside home in the San Francisco Bay area. Diawara’s camera follows Davis as she walks through a forest of giant sequoias, works in the garden, and walks her dog, all while reflecting on ideas including freedom, resistance, rebellion, political Blackness, radical Black thought, music, (Global South) feminism and sexual rights, and, most centrally, her life work on prison abolition. Neither a biography nor a fictional narrative, Angela Davis: A World of Greater Freedom offers a first-hand and accessible insight into Davis’s critical thinking, as well as her personal journey as an activist, now revered as a truly inspirational global political figure.
Diawara skillfully weaves his footage with archival material, creating a poetic montage synchronized with some of Davis’s favorite music. As meditations on the struggle for “greater freedom,” Davis’s reflections emphasize the importance of solidarity with fellow activists and comrades such as James Baldwin, Nina Simone, and Aretha Franklin, who supported her during her time in prison, as well as her collective efforts with anti-prison groups and the prison abolition movement. She also highlights her commitment to anti-colonialism and her advocacy for expanding the scope of critical Black and racialized thinking beyond the confines of Western academia. These discussions encompass figures like US academic Wahneema Lubiano, the Egyptian reproductive rights activist Nawal El-Saadawi, and Brazilian feminist Lélia Gonzalez, alongside a radical call for inclusivity toward trans* and non-binary movements.
By inviting a chorus of voices to explore Davis’s political and intellectual concerns, the film offers a profound exploration of freedom—an utterly unstable concept that is continually tested against the prevailing realities of social worlds. As Davis stated in her “Lectures on Liberation” from 1971, “if the theory of freedom remains isolated from the practice of freedom […] something must be wrong with the concept.” Through Diawara’s multifaceted cinematic exploration, viewers are presented with a practical toolbox of terms and principles that have guided Davis’s political philosophy, that, while reaching for emancipatory horizons, never seized to call for new ways of knowing and the construction of different archives of thought.
Angela Davis: A World of Greater Freedom forms part of an ongoing series of essay films by Diawara, which aim at amplifying the voices of seminal Black theorists and artists, notably Negritude: A Dialogue between Soyinka and Senghor (2015) and Édouard Glissant, One World in Relation (2010). His extensive scholarly and filmmaking practice delves into the complex dimensions of postcolonial politics, decolonization, and migration to shed light upon the erosion of African livelihoods, traditions, and ecosystems caused by global modernity. 
Angela Davis was Born in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, in 1944. Lives and works in Oakland, California, USA.
Manthia Diawara was born in Mali, West Africa. He is a distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and Film at New York University.

Manthia Diawara is a prolific writer and film-maker. His essays on art, cinema and politics have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, LA Times, Libération, Mediapart and Artforum. He is the author of two acclaimed memoirs: In Search of Africa (Harvard University Press, 2000) and We Won’t Budge: An African in the World (Basic Books, 2008). He has published several books on African and African American cinema.

Diawara’s notable films include: AI: African Intelligence (2022), A Letter from Yene (2022), An Opera of the World (2017), Negritude: A Dialogue between Soyinka and Senghor (2015), Édouard Glissant, One World in Relation (2010), Maison Tropicale (2008) and Rouch in Reverse (1995). His films have been presented at festivals, biennials and a wide range of exhibition venues, including the Bienal de São Paulo, Biennale de Dakar, Biennale de Lubumbashi, Centre Pompidou, documenta, Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), Lumiar Cité, Museu de Serralves, HKW-Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Manifesta, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Pan-African Film & TV Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) and Serpentine Galleries. 

Toward the new Baroque of voices: a cinematic essay embodies Édouard Glissant’s “poetics of Relation.”