Full Frame: Director of Molly Ivins doc on sealed box that could reveal journalist's hidden secrets... in 75 years
Janice Engel brings story of a true Texas original to North Carolina festival
Molly Ivins (1944-2007) became one of the best known journalists and writers of her time, but there are some things we still don't know about her... and won't know for many decades.
At the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina, where the new film Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins screened on Friday, director Janice Engel revealed the existence of a secret cache of documents that Ivins left behind.
"There is a box in her archives that's sealed for 75 years after her death," Engel told the Full Frame audience. She added those locked files may shed light on a side of Ivins that the famed author kept hidden. "I believe that is where the darkness resides."
Apart from the intriguing contents of the mystery box, Engel had much to work with for her portrait of Ivins, whose books included Molly Ivins Can't Say That, Can She? and Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (co-written with Lou Dubose). She delved into the Ivins archive at the Center for American History at the University of Texas in Austin over a five-year period.
"I probably spent a total of a half a year on and off [there] at different points," Engel explained. "A deep dive. An archaeological dig."
The Ivins she portrays is a brilliant wit, a keen observer of politics -- especially of the Texas brand -- and a woman with a deep distrust of authority figures that stemmed from a troubled relationship with her dictatorial father. She was a drinker on a grand scale, in something of the "romantic" mold of a Hemingway, Faulkner or Fitzgerald.
"Molly was an alcoholic and alcoholics don't really like to show their soft underbelly," said Engel, noting the guard occasionally dropped. "There is a glimpse where you see a little window into the pain and the sadness in her."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.