It is our national novel. Reading to Kill a Mockingbird is something we all have in common. Harper Lee's first and only novel turns 50 this summer and the author hasn't given an interview ... See full summary »
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It is our national novel. Reading to Kill a Mockingbird is something we all have in common. Harper Lee's first and only novel turns 50 this summer and the author hasn't given an interview since 1964 or published a second book. In compelling interviews with Scott Turow, James McBride, Wally Lamb, Rosanne Cash, Anna Quindlen, Oprah Winfrey,Tom Brokaw, among others, and with rare cooperation from Harper Lee's sister and friends, Mary Murphy traces the history of this astonishing phenomenon. Written by
In this engaging documentary film, director/writer Mary Murphy explores both the background to and impact of author Harper Lee's enormously influential and well-loved 1960 novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird." Drawing upon a host of resources including: interviews with residents of Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama and personal friends of the author's; film footage of civil rights demonstrations in the U.S. south during the early and mid-1960's; commentary by a host of celebrities (Oprah Winfrey, Tom Brokaw, Rosanne Cash, Anna Quindlen, Scott Turow and many others); still photographs; and scenes from the 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck, Murphy weaves together a compelling portrait of the gestation of a literary novel. "To Kill a Mockingbird" -- which won a Pulitzer Prize -- is one of those rare books that manages both to look back in time to small-town southern life in the 1930's and also forward to the racial and social issues surrounding the civil rights struggles of the 1960's. It has rightly become a touchstone of American literature in the 50+ years since its publication. It is to filmmaker Murphy's credit that -- while not scanting the civil rights' issues the book antedates -- she keeps the major focus of this 2010 film upon the book and its author. By so doing, she manages to augment the viewer's sense of the book's impact; understatement possesses a quiet power that overblown rhetoric cannot touch.
At 78 running minutes, "Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and 'To Kill a Mockingbird'" is not a long film documentary, but it pulls the viewer in and commands attention. It is delightfully funny in some places (novelist Allan Gurganus' reminiscing about novelist Truman Capote -- a childhood friend of Lee's -- comes to mind); horrifying in others, and -- like the book it examines -- ultimately moving.
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