In his new film, Walker Percy: A Documentary Film, Win Riley offers a touching, nuanced portrait of Percy, the great Catholic novelist and philosopher. “?…There may be times when the greatest service a novelist can do his fellow man is to follow General Patton’s injunction: Attack, attack, attack. Attack the fake in the name of the real.”
In his new film, Walker Percy: A Documentary Film, Win Riley offers a touching, nuanced portrait of Percy, the great Catholic novelist and philosopher. Deftly alternating between interviews with friends and scholars, narration, photographs, and original video recordings, Riley highlights Percy’s search for meaning and his escape from the shadow of family suicides and the tragic, early death of his mother to an understanding of himself, God, and possibility for human significance founded in the Christian faith.
The film was an “Official Selection” of 2010 New Orleans Film Festival, and is scheduled to be shown at select locations around the country. Mr. Riley was kind to answer a few questions about the film and Percy’s life.
First of all, why a documentary on Walker Percy? What attracted you to him?
To me, Walker is one of the most fascinating figures in American letters, a man who wrote elegant, affirming philosophical novels and essays—and as a filmmaker based in New Orleans, I found him to be irresistible as a subject. I’ve been curious about Walker since, as a teenager, I first pulled The Moviegoer from my parents’ bookshelf. I think I was attracted by the title, by its tone and sensibility. I was enthralled with it. Later, I read The Last Gentleman, and my curiosity grew. I sensed that Walker was trying to communicate an important message, but it wasn’t transmitting completely or clearly—it was opaque.
After college I became involved with documentary filmmaking. I’d just finished a project about the artist Walter Anderson, and my younger brother Tom and I started talking about the idea of a film about Walker—it was something we both wanted to see. So I started looking into the possibilities. Part of my curiosity came from the fact that Walker was steeped in the traditions and culture of the South, yet his interests led him to people like Camus and Sartre and Kierkegaard rather than someone like Faulkner. That was intriguing to me. And the story of moving from medicine to fiction, from agnosticism to faith, was very, very interesting.
Micah Mattix is Assistant Professor in Literature at Houston Baptist University. He is the author of Frank O’Hara and the Poetics of Saying ‘I’.
Read More: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2011/02/an-interview-with-winston-riley-on-walker-percy