Down in the Delta

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Down in the Delta
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMaya Angelou
Written byMyron Goble
Produced byRick Rosenberg
Bob Christiansen
Victor McGauley
Wesley Snipes
StarringAlfre Woodard
Al Freeman, Jr.
Esther Rolle
Mary Alice
Loretta Devine
Wesley Snipes
CinematographyWilliam Wages
Edited byNancy Richardson
Music byStanley Clarke
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release dates
Running time
112 minutes
CountriesUnited States
Box office$5.6 million[1]

Down in the Delta is a 1998 American-Canadian drama film, directed by Maya Angelou (in her only film directing effort) and starring Alfre Woodard, Al Freeman, Jr., Esther Rolle (in her final film appearance before her death), Loretta Devine, and Wesley Snipes.


Rosa Lynn Sinclair, an elderly woman, lives in a Chicago housing project with her daughter Loretta and her two grandchildren, four-year-old Tracy (who is autistic) and thirteen year-old Thomas. Disappointed in Loretta's life choices and afraid of the troubled circumstances surrounding her grandson Thomas, Rosa Lynn decides to send her daughter and grandchildren to visit with her brother-in-law in Mississippi for the summer.

Loretta, a drug addict, declines to go, especially since her uncle Earl lives in the dry and rural part of the Mississippi Delta, and already juggles his business and a wife, Annie, who has Alzheimer's disease and is cared for by a housekeeper.

Before they depart, Rosa Lynn pawns a silver candelabra, a family heirloom they refer to as "Nathan," the name of their slave ancestor. Exiting the pawn shop, Rosa Lynn throws the pawn ticket into a streetside trashcan, hoping that her daughter will value the family relic enough to pick it up and redeem it before the candelabra becomes the property of the pawn shop. Loretta picks the ticket up out of the trashcan, hoping to redeem Nathan later.

Earl, a wise man of few words, welcomes the trio to his home in rural Mississippi. Earl gives Loretta a job in his restaurant, called Just Chicken, where she initially has trouble handling the work and the demands of a daily schedule. Eventually, the visiting family begin to find strength in their rural roots, and start to rebuild their lives.

Thomas teaches Loretta enough basic arithmetic for her to be able to waitress, and thus make extra money in tips. Loretta becomes friendly with a nice local customer named Carl (Nigel Shawn Williams). Eventually, her daughter Tracy says her first words.

A few troubles ensue, one involving Earl teaching Thomas about guns, and the other when Annie falls and breaks her hip. By the end of the summer, the initially sullen Loretta decides to stay on and make her life in the Delta. In the final scene, Earl reveals that Loretta's great-great-grandfather, a slave named Nathan, was sold away from his wife and children for the sterling silver candelabra.[2] During the Civil War, Nathan's son Jesse stole the candelabra, which has since been passed down through generations of their family, along with Nathan's story.



The original soundtrack was released by Virgin Records.[3]

  1. "Believe in Love" - Sunday (featuring Whitney Houston)
  2. "God's Stepchild" - Janet Jackson (credited as Janet)
  3. "Heaven Must Be Like This" - D'Angelo
  4. "If Ever" - Stevie Wonder
  5. "Where Would I Be" - The Leverts (Eddie, Gerald, and Sean)
  6. "I'm Only Human" - Luther Vandross (featuring Cassandra Wilson and Bob James)
  7. "Just A Little Luv" - Shawn Stockman
  8. "We Belong Together" - Tony Thompson And Antoinette
  9. "Don't Talk 2 Strangers" - Chaka Khan
  10. "Let It Go" - Jazzyfatnastees featuring The Roots
  11. "My Soul Don't Dream" - Meshell N'degeocello & Keb' Mo'
  12. "Uh Uh Ooh Ooh Look Out Here It Comes" - Ashford & Simpson
  13. "Don't Let Nuthin' Keep You Down" - Sounds of Blackness
  14. "Family (Score)" - Stanley Clarke
  15. "The Rain" - Tracie Spencer
  16. "Patchwork Quilt" - Sweet Honey in the Rock


Box office[edit]

The film was successful on limited release, grossing $2,497,557 on its first week of release.[1][4]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, Down in the Delta has an approval rating of 76% based on 72 critics' reviews. The consensus states: "Although director Maya Angelou is done few favors by a screenplay drawn in broad strokes, Down in the Delta offers some fine performances and a heartfelt message."[5]

Alfre Woodard's work drew praise from San Francisco Chronicle reviewer Peter Stack, who lauded her for "a beautifully layered performance...Woodard is magical as a single mother haunted by drugs, alcohol and an inadequate education. She almost single-handedly shores up this somewhat simplistic movie...[h]er instincts for drama and humor provide a welcome dose of human reality, saving a script that veers toward the sentimental."[6]

In Variety, Joe Leydon wrote, "Throughout Down in the Delta, Angelou and Goble emphasize simple truths and intelligent optimism", and that the film "places great stock in the strength of family ties and the soul-enhancing value of returning to roots" without crossing into melodrama.[7][2]



  1. ^ a b "Down in the Delta (1998)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 27, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (December 25, 1998). "Down in the Delta Movie Review (1998)". Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  3. ^ "Down in the Delta - Original Soundtrack - Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved September 2, 2017.
  4. ^ "'Patch Adams' Just What Holiday Ordered". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on November 28, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
  5. ^ "Down in the Delta". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  6. ^ Stack, Peter (June 23, 2011). "Serenity of Life Down South / Woodard shores up Angelou's 'Delta'". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  7. ^ Leydon, Joe (September 23, 1998). "Down in the Delta". Variety. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  8. ^ Hearty, Kitty Bowe (August 12, 1998). "Urbanworld fest's time has come Film: African- American showcase grows in size and influence". The Baltimore Sun. Archived from the original on October 25, 2022. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  9. ^ a b Taylor, Stephanie A. (April 3, 2022). "'Down in the Delta': Maya Angelou's Legacy Includes This Timeless Gem". FF2 Media. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  10. ^ ""Affliction" Tops Spirit Award Nominations; "Monster," "Art," and "Sex" Also Nab Numerous Nods". IndieWire. January 8, 1999. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  11. ^ Braxton, Greg (December 11, 1998). "'Beloved,' 'Homicide' Top NAACP Image Award Nominations". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 15, 2021. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  12. ^ "Shows Honored for Anti-Drug Messages". Los Angeles Times. March 13, 1999. Archived from the original on November 1, 2022. Retrieved November 12, 2022.
  13. ^ "The 20th Annual Youth in Film Awards". Archived from the original on November 28, 2016. Retrieved November 12, 2022.

External links[edit]