Brooklyn Public Library Shines Light on Literary Films at Inaugural LitFilm Festival

Still from 'James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket.' Image via PBS/Brooklyn Public Library

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    Another film festival is coming to Brooklyn.

    LitFilm, a six-day festival opening February 20 at the Brooklyn Public Library, focuses on both documentaries and fiction films that explore literary subjects. Fifteen films will be shown in total; all are free but require reservations.

    “Arthur Miller: Writer,” a documentary about the titular playwright made by his daughter, Rebecca Miller — who will also provide the keynote — will open the festival.

    brooklyn public library literary film festival

    Rebecca Miller and Arthur Miller. Photo by Inge Morath via The Inge Morath Foundation/ Magnum Photos / Courtesy of HBO

    “It’s a hidden genre,” said BPL’s Vice President of Arts & Culture László Jakab Orsos. “And one of the reasons we are doing this is to ask the questions: What can film add to the written word? Where’s the intersection of these two disciplines, and what can they reveal?”

    The lineup combines big names — films about Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, James Baldwin — but also explores work by lesser-known writers. “We wanted to offer a healthy mix of subjects,” Orsos said. The library brought in Joseph Shahadi, the executive director of the Art of Brooklyn Film Festival, to help shape a diverse program.

    When asked what he was most excited to show at the festival, Orsos offered “Write Down, I Am an Arab,” a film about the influential Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who passed away in 2008, and “Citizen Havel,” about the playwright Václav Havel, who served as the first president of the newly formed Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003.

    brooklyn public library literary film festival vaclav havel

    ‘Citizen Havel.’ Image via Občan Havel

    “When you think about it, a documentary about a writer can be utterly boring,” Orsos admitted. Many exist: polite and predictable accounts of writers that offer nothing new to a viewer.

    “But you can also take it to another level, and it becomes a different genre,” he added. “That’s why we want to show these films to people. It’s a totally different kind of work.”

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