Master of Light Image

Master of Light

By Sabina Dana Plasse | May 3, 2022

SXSW 2022 FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! Master of Light is an original and beautifully executed documentary directed by Rosa Ruth Boesten. The film follows artist George Anthony Morton, a black classical painter whose style echoes Rembrandt and other masters of realism. Morton is thoughtful and open as he describes his life while offering a reason for his existence, past and present. He is searching for explanations while describing the facts of his life.

We follow Morton in his old car with his daughter, who is wide-eyed and quiet but very present. As we hear his story of generational oppression, beautiful camera framing, use of light, and exquisite editing takes us deeper into his life’s journey. It’s as if we are inside his life’s painting. Boesten and cinematographer Jurgen Lisse must have experienced a great relationship in making this film because it is so poetic and exploratory about very tough and ugly subjects such as race, survival, oppression, addiction, and drug dealing.

Morton, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, travels to Kansas City, where he grew up, to see his family. We learn about his mother and meet other family members who all share their incarceration experiences. When the artist alludes that painting was his escape from dope-smoking with pipe and Crown Royal, an understanding of Morton’s talent begins to unfold. He reveals how teachers would pull him aside to tell him he had more than most and could do something with his life beyond the ghetto. Morton recalls one of his last memories of Kansas City was seeing helicopters overhead from robbing a drug dealer. Finally, he tells of his survivor’s guilt while we see him garner attention for his incredible talent while visiting Amsterdam and being acknowledged by museums as a new talent and gifted artist.

“…George Anthony Morton, a black classical painter…”

But, as alluded to earlier, Master of Light is dealing with people who have been locked up. Morton served a decade in prison, where he learned to paint and studied art to survive. He accepted how to have genuine relationships, but he unconditionally cares about his family, knowing his mother let him take the rap for her. He also tells of how everyone knows each other in prison, and there are generations of family members there.

Morton connects to the next generation in a different way. We see him with his nephew, his daughter watching alongside. He hopes he is offering a new direction for them instead of passing trauma from one generation to the next. All this adds to his realist approach to painting, which he brings to a portrait he is working on of his mother. Yet, it is light that makes him feel alive and present — it’s a healing power. As a Black painter, Morton is entering a new world, forging a new path for himself and others.

Boesten’s ability to capture the natural beauty and intense emotions revolving around family, ghetto life, drug dealing, and its consequences is exceptional and unexpected. She transforms Master of Light from a straightforward biography of a great but somewhat unknown artist into a poignant documentary that offers something to everyone of any generation. She brings the narrative to life with beautiful camera work and unparalleled direction, evoking Morton’s unedited approach to life and art.

Master of Light screened at the 2022 SXSW Film Festival.

Master of Light (2022)

Directed: Rosa Ruth Boesten


Starring: George Anthony Morton, etc.

Movie score: 8.5/10

Master of Light Image

"…a poignant documentary that offers something to everyone of any generation."

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  1. Andrew Michaels says:

    i am currently in south africa and i am dying to see this documentary! can you perhaps direct me to where i can find it please 🙂

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