Flannery O’Connor’s life and work is front and center with Flannery, a documentary which won the first-ever Library of Congress Lavine/Ken Burns Prize for Film. Featuring never-before-seen archival footage, personal letters and her own words (read by Mary Steenburgen), Flannery delivers a nuanced and inspiring portrait of an artist who continued to write with fervor even after a lupus diagnosis at 25 (she passed away in 1964 at the age of 39).
Filmmakers Mark Bosco and Elizabeth Coffman started work on Flannery in 2013, with Bosco being the O’Connor scholar and Coffman possessing the acute filmmaking skillset to craft this ambitious project.
“In trying to capture her point of view and her perspective in the film, I was drawn to her,” said Coffman. “She was on crutches for much of her adult life and she didn’t let anything slow down or stop her. What drove her was to be a great writer.”
Amidst that focus on honing her craft, O’Connor was also passionate about her faith. “She really thought her vocation was to be a writer,” added Bosco. “Coming out of her devout Catholic background, vocation has truly theological ramifications. She was single minded about craft, about learning from others. It was all about how (to) become a better writer.”
Hilton Als, Mary Gordon, Tommy Lee Jones, Mary Karr, Conan O’Brien, Alice Walker, and Tobias Wolff are among the interviewees featured in Flannery. Click on the media bar to hear the filmmakers talk about the origins of their successful collaboration (Coffman mentions the National Endowment for the Humanties in the clip):