What is perhaps most surprising about Vogue's announcement that Joan Didion's nephew is making a film about her is the fact that a film about Didion doesn't already exist. Her writing, whether about Hollywood, profound grief or what it's like to be young, female and living in New York City, is still the standard against which much of today's nonfiction and narrative journalism is measured.
Seriously, this is the first movie about Joan Didion?
Didion's nephew, actor and filmmaker Griffin Dunne, began filming his aunt a few years ago for a short to go along with her bestselling memoir "Blue Nights." He continued filming and now, along with documentarian Susanne Rostock, is raising funds through Kickstarter to complete the feature-length documentary "We Tell Stories About Ourselves to Live."
Dunne tells Vogue the film is the story of Didion's life using words from her writing. “The narration is already written because Joan has been writing it since she was a little girl,” Dunne said.
The documentary's name comes from one of among many famous Didion lines, this one from her 2005 memoir "The Year of Magical Thinking," in which she chronicles her grief after the death of her husband and writing partner, John Gregory Dunne, while also watching her only child fight for her life in the hospital. Her daughter, Quintana Dunne, died soon after.
"We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the 'ideas' with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience," Didion writes.
Didion has been telling stories for more than 50 years, stories that have been in newspapers, magazines, scripts made into movies, novels, essay collections and memoirs. Nearly 80 years old, she continues to write. Her 2005 memoir on grief won the National Book Award for nonfiction. In 2012, President Obama presented her with the National Endowment for the Humanities medal. If Didion's nephew finds enough support for his project, she'll finally—belatedly—be honored in that ultimate American way: her face in a theater near you.