Joan Didion documentary is in the works

Didion's nephew Griffin Dunne turned to Kickstarter to fund the film and it's already passed its goal. Didion's work 'The Year of Magical Thinking' won the National Book Award for nonfiction.

Kathy Willens/AP
Joan Didion poses for a portrait in her New York apartment in 2005.

At 79 years old, Joan Didion is finally getting her own documentary.

And like the celebrated author herself, it's not your typical documentary. Didion's nephew, the actor Griffin Dunne, is spearheading the project, and he's turned to crowdfunding site Kickstarter to fund it. With an $80,000 goal and 29 days left in the campaign, it's already surpassed its goal with $97,577 and counting – a testament to the adoration of Didion fans everywhere.

The documentary's proposed title takes its name from one of Didion's own, "We tell ourselves stories to live."

“Storytelling was a way of enduring the potent rawness Joan experienced through life, and through loss," the Kickstarter page explains. "Now we must be the ones to preserve this. To preserve her legacy.”

This will likely be the first and only documentary about Didion, who is famously and fiercely private. The film will trace the arc of Didion's life through passages the author will read aloud from her work as well as interviews with friends, family, other authors, and critics.

The documentary will be “a collage that captures the emotions of the time," Dunne said.

If a trailer introducing the project on the Kickstarter page is any indication, the documentary will be a visually stimulating collage, featuring archival photos of Didion and her family, clips of news events she's covered in her essays, interviews with Didion's contemporaries and those she's influenced as well as footage of Didion reading her own words, perhaps the most powerful element of the entire project, says Dunne.

That, in fact, is what inspired the project.

Dunne began filming Didion a few years ago when he made a short film to accompany her memoir, Blue Nights, about parenting and aging. According to the documentary’s Kickstarter page, “After hours of watching her read and reflect, it became clear that we could not stop there – we had to do something much larger and deeper.”

The book trailer for Blue Nights gives a sense of what the full documentary might feel like, reports the UK's Guardian, "filled with close-ups of Didion’s face, detailed shots of her hands writing and an overall intimate and deeply personal feel."

The project isn't without some controversy. The Kickstarter campaign has raised money by auctioning off some of Didion's personal effects, a tactic with which some have found fault. For $2,500, two people will receive a pair of sunglasses from her “personal collection"; for $35 you get a handwritten list of her 12 favorite books; for $50 you get a PDF copy of her recipe book; and for $350 you get the privilege of having your two-page letter read to the 79-year-old author herself, the New Republic reports drily

Still, Didion fans seem unperturbed: mere hours after the Kickstarter campaign went live, donations had already surpassed half of the $80,000 goal, and they have now surpassed the target number.

Didion, who published her first novel in 1963, has written five novels, a play, a handful of screenplays, and eight books of essays, including The Year of Magical Thinking, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction and established her as one of the country's most respected writers. In 2013, President Obama awarded her the National Medals of Arts and Humanities.

In the trailer for the film, Didion's nephew Dunne calls her “perhaps the most influential American writer alive."

We think few would disagree.

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