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Faulkner: The Past is Never Dead takes a hybrid storytelling approach weaving interviews with leading academics and Faulkner descendants, re-enacted scenes filmed in Faulkner's homes and community in the Mississippi Delta, visually stunning animated sequences using Faulkner's own drawings and an unforgettable score by multi-platform artist Osei Essed.
To depict Faulkner’s journey, I have had to contend with the relatively little archival visual material that Faulkner left behind. However, I view this constraint as an opportunity for a more innovative, hybrid documentary approach that marries traditional interviews, archival media, animated sequences, and re-enacted scenes.
Interviews with leading academics, Faulkner descendants, and others explore Faulkner’s writing influences, life, literary style, and personae. Archival photographs, video, and documents provide visuals for their stories.
Woven into the interview commentary are re-enacted scenes that form the narrative ark of the film. These scenes build from Faulkner and his contemporaries’ words in Faulkner’s literature, letters, and life. Like Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, multiple narrators come together to tell the story.
In everything from its approach to content, The Past is Never Dead aspires to inculcate a new generation of Faulkner readers and fans. The Mississippi-and-millennial-rooted crew hopes to use their backgrounds in documentary technique, narrative film and television, history, academic research, and music to remind audiences of Faulkner’s continued relevance—how his past is not yet dead.
- Michael Modak-Truran
Skylar Adams and Eric Roberts at different stages of Faulkner's life in the
Our the thework.
. Molly Schwartzburg, the Curator Special Collections at the University of Virginia, who provided us with unfettered access and assistance to the multiple Faulkner collections at University of Virginia.
In addition to Mississippi and Virginia, we traveled to Missouri, Texas, New York and Japan to review archival material. We gathered information from many sources, including Faulkner scholars, academics, writers, librarians, Civil War re-enactors, family, friends and more.
The film's re-enactments cover more than five decades of Faulkner's life. They were filmed in the fetid heat of summer in places where Faulkner found inspiration, including his childhood home and Rowan Oak.
The re-enactment scenes provide an unflinching look at the man. Should William Faulkner be judged on his personal flaws or the insights from his literary masterpieces?
Professor Michael Gorra believes that "[w]hen writing fiction", Faulkner "became better than he was." Gorra, Michael, The Saddest Words: William Faulkner's Civil War.