Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (2010) Poster

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Birth of a Novel
Forn5518 February 2012
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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Nice Look at Author, Book and Movie
Michael_Elliott19 June 2012
Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird (2010)

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

Mary Badham, Tom Brokaw, Rosanne Cash, Alice Finch Lee, James McBride, Jon Meacham, James Patterson, Anna Quindlen, Richard Russo, Scott Turow and Oprah Winfrey are among the people interviewed for this documentary, which was released on the 50th anniversary of the release of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. The documentary talks about Lee's early life, getting the book published, the success and movie that followed and of course how the author turned away from the public as she rarely granted interviews and never released another book. If you don't know the story of Lee or the book then this here is a must see. There's no question that just about every aspect of the book is covered and I found it incredibly interesting hearing about some of the real people that characters in the book are based on. The Truman Capote connection is also another fascinating subject that is covered. The film never really answers the question on why Lee ran away from everyone or why she never wrote another book. There's talk about perhaps she knew she couldn't top it and the rumor of Capote having wrote it are also discussed. The interview segments are all pretty good as the celebrities and writers talk about the impact that both the book and film had on them. There's also some good stuff about how the book deserves credit for being one of the earliest movements in the Civil Rights. At 80-minutes the film is very fast paced and it covers quite a bit of ground, which should please fans or those just wanting to hear the backstory to this classic novel.
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