Lunenburg Doc Fest and Hot Docs are pleased to co-present OBIT, an official selection of the third annual festival.
OBIT celebrates the life before the death
Every morning, a small staff of obituary writers at The New York Times deposits the details of three or four extraordinary lives into the cultural memory – each life’s story spun amid the daily beat of war, politics, and football scores. It’s amazing what goes on in the obits.
There are only a handful of editorial obituary writers in the world, and none are better than at The Times, where obits have become some of the best writing in journalism. Documentary storytelling in print. First drafts of contemporary history. Mirrors of life’s great variety, humor and pathos. Neatly framed vignettes of worlds that will vanish along with their notable stars.
OBIT is the first documentary to look into the world of editorial obituaries, via the legendary obit desk at The Times. The film invites some of the most essential questions we ask ourselves about life, memory and the inevitable passage of time. What do we choose to remember? What never dies?
Longtime obituary editor of The New York Times William McDonald, and past and present staff writers on the desk are featured: including Bruce Weber, Margalit Fox, William Grimes, Douglas Martin and Paul Vitello. The Times’ century-old archive (appropriately called the morgue), along with its last remaining full-time archivist Jeff Roth, is also featured.
… about the very famous, and the barely famous …
The writers de-emphasize the death, and tell stories of lives lived in extraordinary ways, often below the radar. With this comes uncommon insights – insights only the rare obituary writer could have – into the passage of generations, the astonishing cycle of life, the ebb and flow of time, and culture as it appears to accelerate and vanish at the same time.
OBIT is a recipient of a 2015 NYSCA Artist Grant, and received support from IFP and Made In NY Media Center.
Vanessa Gould, Director/Producer
Vanessa Gould is a filmmaker, editor and camera operator working in Brooklyn. Gould is currently filming OBIT, a feature-length documentary about The New York Times obituaries and their writer-reporters. In 2015, the project was named a recipient of a NYSCA Artist Grant, and it was a featured documentary at IFP’s 2014 Film Week. In 2012–2013, she produced and shot for Showtime’s Emmy®-winning Years of Living Dangerously, a documentary series about climate change executive produced by James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Gould’s previous film Between the Folds premiered on PBS’s Independent Lens in December 2009 and was re-broadcast the following season. In 2010, it received a Peabody Award. Between the Folds has been translated into more than ten languages and broadcast in dozens of countries on NHK, CBC, ABC, EBS, NRK, SF, SVT, Al Jazeera, Al Hurra, and other networks. It screened at more than forty-five international film festivals and was recognized with numerous audience and jury awards.
She was a featured presenter at the EG 2010 conference in Monterey, California, and serves on the jury for the News & Documentary Emmy® Awards, as well as on several festival juries. In July 2013 she was cinematographer for the app, “Abstraction”, named the winning concept at PBS POV’s Hackathon 4. Excerpts of that work were installed in 2014 in the Made in NY Media Center in Brooklyn. She occasionally paints and plays piano.