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Overby Center Presents: Documentary on Robert Penn Warren

The documentary “Robert Penn Warren: A Vision,” by the award-winning filmmaker Tom Thurman, will be featured at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 5:30 p.m. as part of the center’s spring 2020 programs at the University of Mississippi.

After the screening, Thurman, who has produced and directed 36 documentaries on art, film, music, sports and literary figures, will discuss his work with Joe Atkins, a professor in the university’s School of Journalism and New Media.

Courtesy photo.

Thurman’s documentary offers compelling insight into the life of the acclaimed writer, whose novel “All the King’s Men” is considered one of the great dissections of Southern politics. The idea for the project stemmed from Thurman’s re-reading of the novel, which features the fictional character Willie Stark, a populist southern governor modeled after the Louisiana governor Huey Long.

“The sheer force of the novel’s language prompted me more than anything else,” Thurman said. “And given today’s current political climate, it struck me that ‘All the King’s Men’ has gained relevance with time. Digging deeper into Warren’s total body of work, one additional book emerged that really captured my imagination: ‘Segregation: The Inner Conflict in the South.’ Given that many of his interviews for this book were conducted with Civil Rights activists in Mississippi in 1955-1956, it seems very appropriate for me to screen my documentary on the campus of the University of Mississippi.”

Professor Atkins, who will interview the filmmaker, said, “I’m so glad our students, faculty, and others in our community will get the opportunity to see this documentary on one of the South’s seminal writers, the nation’s first poet laureate and a key leader of the `Fugitive’ literary movement in Nashville early in the last century.

“Tom Thurman is one of the region’s leading documentary filmmakers,” Atkins said, “and in this film we get insight not only into Warren’s work but also his life as a Southerner and his own evolution on issues such as race during his lifetime.”

As a producer and writer for Kentucky Educational Television in Lexington, Ky., Thurman directs documentaries that showcase artists with Kentucky roots. Thurman was born in the small Kentucky farming community of Christiansburg and began his career as a director with a documentary on the late Kentucky character actor Warren Oates in 1992.

Thurman has since produced and directed a string of feature-length independent documentaries that have aired on PBS and cable networks such as Starz, Encore and The Sundance Channel. Over the years, subjects for Thurman’s documentaries have included the director Sam Peckinpah, the actor Harry Dean Stanton and the writer Harry Crews.

The Feb. 26 screening of the documentary is free and open to the public. The program will be held in the Overby Center Auditorium at 555 Grove Loop on the campus; parking will be available in the adjacent lot. A reception will follow the program.

Click here to see the KET preview of the documentary.

Press release courtesy of The Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics

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