Their Eyes Were Watching God
Produced in 2005
An Oprah Book Club made for TV movie
Won 2006 Austin film Critics Breakthrough Artist Award
Won 2006 Black Reel Award
Nominated for numerous other awards including Emmy & Golden Globe
Based on a novel by Zora Neale Hurston
Set in the 1920’s Deep South
Janie Crawford (Hallie Berry) is a wild free spirited girl growing up in the deep south during a time of prejudice and a strict moral code. After getting overly fond of a boy of questionable reputation, Janie’s grandmother marries her off to an older man of property. The marriage is not for love but only of convenience. Her new husband makes her work like a man and offers no love or happiness. When the elegant, fast talking Joe Starks (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) comes along. Janie is more than willing to run off with him in search of happiness and a position as a prominent wife.
Joe and Janie visit a small ramshackle community and inspire the people to turn it into a real town. The first incorporated black town in Florida. Joe opens a store and is immediately elected mayor. He and Janie appear to be happy running their store until one of the patrons gets a little too friendly with Janie. Joe is enraged and hits Janie in public in front of everyone. Janie’s spirited attitude pushes her to attempt to leave but having no means of her won forces her to stay, She becomes a miserable submissive wife who is often beaten. Joe continues his public farce as a prominent business man but also continues to gather wealth. When he becomes mortally ill and passes away, Janie inherits the full estate, then making her a woman of property.
She continues to run the store and live a lonely but peaceful life until the day Tea Cake (Michel Ealy) shows up. He is much younger and quite taboo for the time but he is also persistent in his pursuit of Janie. The townsfolk gossip and say that he is just after her money but Janie has never been happier in her life. She hires a store hand and decides to run off with Tea Cake on an adventure.
Finally Janie finds the love and happiness that she has always been looking for. Her and Tea Cake roam the countryside living a free lifestyle and couldn’t be happier together. But you know what they say, all good things must come to an end. A terrible hurricane hits the small farming camp where their shack is located. Janie wants to flee inland but Tea Cake’s own adventurous spirit talks Janie into staying. This is a big mistake and it leads to tragedy. Janie eventually finds her way home to tell the story, once again alone. The only difference is now she freed by knowing what real and true love is.