Obit. (2016)

Comments Off on Obit. (2016) 31 August 2017


Studio: Kino

Theatrical Release: April 15, 2016

Blu Ray Release: August 1, 2017

Director: Vanessa Gould

Not Rated

Review by Vidal Granandos

Obit. is a documentary about the several talented writers given the daunting tasks of writing obituaries for the New York Times.

Obit. takes you through the offices of the New York Times with the writing staff whose daily duties is to write obituaries. The film takes the viewer through the entire development process from start to finish. It begins early in the morning when the writers learns about their various subjects in order to do the proper research. They call loved ones of the deceased to get a background history followed by researching online to fact check. They also dig into the New York Times own archives depending if they already have photos and articles of the person on file. From there are a couple meetings throughout the day where the editors discuss which people should be featured in the paper’s next issue. Afterward the pressure is on each writer to present their contents as honest as possible and meet their deadlines within the few hours they were given the assignment.

In between the grind, the film takes a break to share some fascinating stories of people’s lives the New York Times have published over the years. Stories range from the man who invented the remote control, to a belly dancer who married Jack Ruby to the pilot that dropped the atomic bomb. There are hundreds of engaging stories Obit. could have included, but then it would have taken up several hours into an astronomical running time. However, every story Obit. does share is intriguing and given the proper respect every person deserves. The memoirs shown are as charismatic as the people who write them.

Every author featured in this documentary is an amusing character. They all share the same passion, and are all trying to convey the life of the person they are writing about. Early on in the film it doesn’t seem the journalists have much compassion for the people who died. Given how many tragic stories they must have heard and written about throughout their careers, I can understand why. Who wants to write about death everyday while hearing loved ones grieve? It is these authors job and they must treat it as such. That can make anyone jaded. But they are human and everyone has emotions. Once they begin researching and find captivating tidbits to make the article a juicer read you see the authors light up. They are driven to make the report the best they possibly can.

Being a writer myself, I am absolutely biased in favor of this film. Seeing these writers having to analyze the paper work while stressing over deadline, I can sympathize with that. They struggle with writer’s block just as I constantly do. They wrestle with sentence structure and most have been writing for over 20 years. That makes me feel better about my own grammar problems. What’s funny is most don’t use “proper” hand position while typing on a keyboard. These are professionals and yet they still peck at letters while typing.

I love the whole writing process. To get a glimpse of how a newspaper is published, especially one as renowned as The New York Times really was inspirational for me to witness. From the research, to the layout of the photos, to the word count etc. is like an orchestra being guided to the final symphony. They also include a writer’s worse fear, having to retract and correct an article that was published. Everyone makes mistakes, even the professionals. Because of this film I will now keep an eye out to read the obituary sections while I read the morning paper. The blu ray quality of Obit. is beautiful. There are no bonus features but for a documentary I believe that is okay. Everything you need to see is in the film. Even if you are not a writer, I implore you to watch Obit. because it is a well-done documentary that deserves to be seen by everyone.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

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