In the Wake of the Flood (2010)
47 min | Documentary
On the eve of her 70th birthday, Canadian writer Margaret Atwood set out on an international tour criss-crossing the British Isles and North America to celebrate the publication of her new dystopian novel, The Year of the Flood. But rather than mount a traditional tour to promote a book's publication, Atwood conceived and executed something far more ambitious and revelatory-a theatrical version of her novel. Along the way she reinvented what a book tour could be. But Atwood wasn't selling books as much as advocating an idea. Her primary concern was to do what she could to ensure the continued life of the birds of the skies-especially song birds. Atwood's odyssey is now captured in Ron Mann's new film, In The Wake of the Flood. Rendered as a fly-on-the-wall film verite, In The Wake of the Flood mixes new footage, archival materials and evocative CGI in featuring Atwood on the road and at home as an aging but buoyant literary rock star spreading a message of warning and hope as she staged and participated in the novel production. Margaret Atwood is, of course, one of the most acclaimed literary voices of this generation. The author of more than a dozen novels, numerous collections of poetry, children's books, and countless essays, Atwood's triumphs have been lauded on the highest levels throughout the world. In each community she visited, Atwood joined volunteer performers in a loose-knit, grass roots production drawn from the text of her novel. With its mystical, Blakean overtones, Atwood's theatrical version of The Year of the Flood acts as a song cycle that seeks to shake the human race into an awareness of the fragility of the natural world and our vital connection to it. To bring her novel into a live setting, Atwood teamed with Los Angeles composer Orville Stoeber to write a new style of devotional music influenced by the related genres of country ballads, gospel, jazz and folk. Each performance included a cast of local readers and singers taking the roles of different characters in key scenes from the novel. The events were primarily staged in cathedrals, adding a grand visual element to the proceedings and a layer of ceremonial gravitas. From Edinburgh and London to New York City, Toronto and Vancouver, Atwood emerges as a wizened elf whose rare sensibility is always in the foreground: a life and art coalesced into a unity of medium and message.