The masculinity of his myth and prose style made Ernest Hemingway the writer to topple for a generation of novelists in the last century. But beyond the Hemingway Code of virile heroics: man against nature, as traveler, or in war, as illustrated in such iconic works as The Sun Also Rises, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Old Man and the Sea, even A Moveable Feast, the Hemingway family inherited an untoward legacy of suicide. As told in Barbara Kopple's new documentary film, Running from Crazy, to be featured this week at The Nantucket Film Festival where the two time academy award winning documentarian will be awarded for Special Achievement in Documentary Storytelling, there were 7 suicides, including Hemingway's father and granddaughter, the model and actress Margaux. As a mom, fearful of this legacy, her sister and main focus of this film, Mariel Hemingway reveals a family history that is to a large degree a cautionary tale for her own daughters, and a story of hope.
According to Kopple, Oprah Winfrey's Network had the idea and approached Mariel Hemingway who was persuaded when they suggested Kopple would make the film. The two met and hit it off. The question looming over all family members: what is it like to be the son, the grandchild, etc. of Ernest Hemingway. Likening her family to that of the Kennedy's, Mariel's family story contains large size figures facing inexplicable demons. Ernest may be in the backdrop of a larger story of her sisters Muffie and Margot, particularly Margot who was the "bad girl" to Mariel's "good;" archival footage of this vibrant woman whose life ends in suicide at age 41 is at the core of the film. Among Mariel's many revelations is that their father abused the older sisters, and her own guilt that Margot embarrassed her, became a rival. Now a spokeswoman for fitness and holistic health, Mariel Hemingway is good mom to Langley, a painter, and Dree, a model and actress, recently celebrated at the Hamptons International Film Festival for her star turn in the indie film "Starlet."
As to storytelling strategy, Running from Crazy begins with Mariel at a photo shoot. You see her tall, blond, gorgeous, and you imagine how does this perfect woman have problems? Which is exactly what happens when she travels about lecturing: people think, "What can I possibly have to tell them?" And then the dark story unfolds. In addition to the award for Barbara Kopple, the Nantucket Film Festival will honor Lake Bell with a New Voices in Screenwriting Award and David O. Russell with a Screenwriters Tribute Award.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.