1 of 5 | Tyler Perry is the subject of a new documentary, "Maxine's Baby: The Tyler Perry Story," premiering Friday on Prime Video. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
NEW YORK, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Directors Gelila Bekele and Armani Ortiz say their new documentary, Maxine's Baby: The Tyler Perry Story, is a celebration of Perry's success as a filmmaker and philanthropist, despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
"It's a great American story. The history of the world is written by great men and women, and we feel like Tyler is one of them," Bekele told UPI in a recent Zoom interview, explaining she sees the project as a "meditation on love and healing."
"People like Tyler who are successful, we only see the end result. We never see the process, the hard work that goes into becoming a mogul," she added.
Premiering Friday on Prime Video, the film features archival footage and new interviews, following Perry from a traumatic childhood during which he was raised by a loving mother and an abusive father in New Orleans, through his trailblazing movie, TV and stage career to his current status as beloved and respected film studio head.
Recipient of an honorary Oscar for his contributions to cinema and his humanitarian work, as well as the Primetime Emmys Governors Award, the multiple NAACP Image Awards winner, now 54, has helmed and starred in the decades-long Madea stage and film comedy franchise, and created more than a dozen TV shows for which he employs majority Black casts and crews.
"To see Tyler every, single day and his work ethic and the reason why he works that hard is a story to tell," Ortiz said, explaining how Perry's tale was so rich and fascinating that the first cut of the documentary about him was 5 hours long instead of 2.
"Within the 10 years I've been with him, [I've seen] the opportunities he is still trying to create for people who look like us and come from where we come from. It's something people should see and see themselves in," Ortiz said.
The film doesn't shy away from the abuse Perry suffered as a boy or the mixed reviews his artistic creations received from critics and some detractors in the Black community.
But Maxine's Baby focuses on how even the negative aspects of Perry's biography helped make him the man he is today.
"That is the beautiful -- and the sad thing -- about life," Ortiz said.
"There is always a balance. Hopefully, this documentary can reflect that for so many people who might be going through the same struggle, might have the same dream that they feel is unachievable, unattainable. There absolutely is an opportunity for growth in every aspect of your life -- good and bad."
In chronicling the origins of Perry's career, the film illustrates how, even after Perry left his father's home, the road to stardom and success wasn't an easy one.
He battled depression and, in his darkest hours, attempted suicide.
Perry kept writing and acting, however, and ultimately was rewarded with the "impossible becoming possible," Bekele said.
"You see the beginning stages of him trying to get these plays up and going and all the obstacles of living in his car and becoming homeless," she added.
"We often talk about people who've made themselves from nothing, but to actually see the process is really incredible."
The film's title refers to Perry's cherished mother, who died in 2009 at age 64.
"There's something so beautiful about it because Maxine is the heart of the film and Maxine absolutely is [Perry's] heart," Ortiz said. "We tried to weave all those interactions and her voice into the film. It was only right to give it that title."
The film also shows how other smart and hilarious women -- from his aunts to his mentor Oprah Winfrey -- influenced Perry.
"In one of the beautiful speeches he makes when he receives an award [shown in the film], he says: 'It's always been about my mother. My first 10 films were wanting women, Black women, particularly, to know that they are enough and they are loved,'" Bekele said.
Tyler Perry arrives at the premiere of "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" in Los Angeles on February 21, 2005. Later that year, Perry attended
the United Negro College Fund's annual "An Evening of Stars" fundraiser. Photo by Francis Specker/UPI | License Photo