Published on July 11, 1960, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird remains a bestseller. Nearly one million copies sold each year, translated into more than forty languages, Pulitzer Prize, the instant-classic film of the instant-classic book won three Academy Awards. This was Harper Lee’s first and last published book.
For most people of my country and generation To Kill a Mockingbird was one of a handful of books we were required to read in high school English. I was living in the south when I read the book and saw the movie. The civil rights movement was raging, but I only saw faint glimpses of it on television. I was too self-absorbed to pay attention, to respond deeply to the injustices of my world, and, of course, to Harper Lee’s book. However, I did appreciate that the film was that extremely rare movie that was faithful to the book on which is was based.
Mary McDonagh Murphy, the producer, writer, and director of Hey, Boo: Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird, reminds me a bit of Harper Lee. Like Lee, Murphy’s film is, so far, her only feature documentary.
Murphy utilizes narration, clips of the film, interviews with writers, friends, actors, Lee’s sister, Alice Finch Lee, and many others to tell a story of Harper Lee’s life. Murphy has produced the kind of documentary that is best seen on DVD because the flow of thoughts, stories, and ideas is so rich, one finds oneself pondering on what was just heard whilst the story moves on. Ooops, I missed that. Fast Reverse. Listen again. I missed it again! Can’t stop thinking about it. Fast Reverse again.
Simply put, Hey, Boo is thoroughly engaging from start-to-finish.
This First Run Features release includes additional interviews and a printed interview of the filmmaker. And kudos to Mary McDonagh Murphy for including Closed Captioning—a rare treat for us dedicated viewers of documentary films.