The one absolutely essential requisite for a fine documentary film is a fascinating subject, and Obit proves that an insightful filmmaker can find the fascination in the most unlikely place. It’s about the writing of New York Times obituaries. Director Vanessa Gould chose the subject when the NYT published the obit of an acquaintance whom she feared would become overlooked; the story in her own words is here (scroll down).
The writers in Obit explain something counter-intuitive – good obituaries are very little about a person’s death. Sure, they are published upon a death, but the key to an obit is to explain the person’s life. It helps that the NYT obits eschew the old-fashioned and hypocritical canonization of the dead, instead pseudo-resurrecting them by finding what was most interesting about their lives.
Obit is a superb study on writing. We sit on the writers’ shoulders and observe their process in real-time. Obit lives up to its tagline: Life on a Deadline.
Obit was released briefly earlier this year and is now available to stream on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.