The first feature-length documentary with full access to the Flannery O’Connor trust, 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.
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.”