American Masters Examines the Life and Career of Author Flannery O’Connor in New Documentary, Premiering March 23 on PBS for Women’s History Month
Features new interviews with Mary Karr, Hilton Als, Alice Walker, Tobias Wolff, Tommy Lee Jones and Alice McDermott; Mary Steenburgen is the voice of O’Connor
The first feature-length documentary with full access to the Flannery O’Connor trust, American Masters: Flannery explores the life and legacy of the literary icon with never-before-seen archival footage, original animations, O’Connor’s newly discovered personal letters and excerpts from her stories read by actress Mary Steenburgen. Featuring new, original interviews with Mary Karr, Hilton Als, Alice Walker, Tobias Wolff, Tommy Lee Jones, Alice McDermott and others, alongside archival interviews of friends and family, American Masters: Flannery premieres nationwide Tuesday, March 23 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/americanmasters and the PBS Video app in honor of Women’s History Month.
A devout Catholic who collected peacocks and walked with crutches due to lupus, O’Connor’s illness, religion and experience as a Southerner informed her provocative, sharply aware stories about outsiders, prophets and sinners seeking truth and redemption. With her distinctive Southern Gothic writing style and characteristic wit and irony, the film investigates how O’Connor didn’t shy away from examining timely themes of racism, religion, socioeconomic disparity and more. Over the course of her short but prolific writing career, she published two novels, 32 short stories, numerous columns and commentaries, and won many awards, including the National Book Award and three O. Henry Awards, the annual award given to short stories of exceptional merit.
“As one of the best short story writers the nation has ever produced, O’Connor holds a mirror up to our contemporary moment, navigating the issues of racism, religious faith and disability that still haunt us today,” said co-director Mark Bosco, S.J.
“O’Connor managed to see the humor and the ridiculousness of society while documenting its injustices and imagining moments of redemption,” added co-director Elizabeth Coffman.
American Masters: Flannery is the winner of the first Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film. Ken Burns called the film, “an extraordinary documentary that allows us to follow the creative process of one of our country’s greatest writers.”
Now in its 34th season on PBS, American Masters illuminates the lives and creative journeys of our nation’s most enduring artistic giants — those who have left an indelible impression on our cultural landscape. Setting the standard for documentary film profiles, the series has earned widespread critical acclaim and 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 14 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards and many other honors. To further explore the lives and works of more than 250 masters past and present, the American Masters website offers streaming video of select films, outtakes, filmmaker interviews, the American Masters Podcast, educational resources and more. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET.
American Masters: Flannery is a production of Long Distance Educational Media in association with THIRTEEN’s American Masters.
Major funding for American Masters: Flannery is provided by The Better Angels Society, National Endowment for the Humanities, The Joan and Bill Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage, Virginia Wellington Cabot Foundation, Patrick and Becky Cipollone, Jesuit Community of Loyola University Chicago, and William and Maureen Runzel.
Support for American Masters is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AARP, Rosalind P. Walter, Judith & Burton Resnick, The Cheryl & Philip Milstein family, Vital Projects Fund, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation, Seton J. Melvin, Philip & Janice Levin Foundation, Ellen & James S. Marcus, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, The Ambrose Monell Foundation and public television viewers.
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