Harper Lee: From Mockingbird to Watchman

DVD. 83 min. Dist. by First Run Features. 2015. $24.95. UPC 720229916691.
RedReviewStarGr 9 Up—This thoughtful documentary examines the life of author Harper Lee and the far-reaching influence of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Initially, it introduces Lee as she moves from Monroeville, AL, to New York City at the age of 31 in the late 1950s and her struggles before her novel is eventually published in 1960. Author Wally Lamb and Oprah Winfrey are among those interviewed about how Lee's writing inspired them and influenced their own understanding of American life and literature. High school and middle school students are seen in classrooms discussing the gravity of the novel, emphasizing the resonance this work still has on students today. The parallels of the story to the author's life are examined. Footage includes actual locations from Lee's life and excerpts from the 1961 film. The author's longtime relationship with the volatile Truman Capote is highlighted, as well as the fall 2014 discovery of Lee's completed manuscript for Go Set a Watchman (which is only briefly discussed). As Mockingbird continues to be required reading in most schools in America, this film would be an asset to teachers, helping their students understand the cultural climate when the book was first published. Adults and literature buffs will enjoy this behind-the-scenes look into the creation of the book and its author's reclusive life.
VERDICT Recommended for school and public libraries.

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