Revealing documentary shows a side of the celebrated author few rarely see. (SBS and On Demand from Sunday 1 December)
By
Staff writers

29 Nov 2019 - 2:16 PM  UPDATED 2 Dec 2019 - 10:14 AM

Margaret Atwood has never been more relevant than she is today. Readers are turning to her work as they face the rise of authoritarian politics, rapidly evolving technologies, and the slow-motion disaster of climate change. Her poetry and books are about survival, but they are also survival tools in and of themselves.

The ongoing success of the television adaptation of her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, has made Atwood a household name. Almost 2 million fans wake up to Atwood's early morning posts on Twitter.

Who is the woman and writer behind these stories? How does she always seem to know what the future holds? And how does she always strike the right balance of humour, self-deprecation and defiance?

With exclusive access over a twelve-month period, we follow Atwood as she jets with partner Graeme Gibson to speaking engagements around the world. She is enthusiastically welcomed by crowds of all ages: college students in Chicago and Boston; bird enthusiasts in Vancouver, opera festival fans in Cooperstown, New York.

Atwood visits the set of The Handmaid’s Tale, where she meets the series star and producer, Elisabeth Moss, and Ane Crabtree, costume designer of the iconic red robes that are turning up at feminist protests around the world.

The film also delves into Atwood’s youth in the Canadian wilderness; her early days as a poet at Harvard; meeting her partner Graeme Gibson; their political activism; and the writing of The Handmaid’s Tale.

The film explores Atwood's major works, elucidating the personal and societal factors that inform her stories, including her latest, The Testaments, the joint Booker Prize-winning sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, which she has said was inspired by “the world we’ve been living in.”

Margaret Atwood: A Word After A Word After A Word is Power (taken from a line of one of her poems) has much to offer audiences, regardless of how familiar they are with the world of Offred, Aunt Lydia and Co.  

Co-directors Nancy Lang and Peter Raymont follow the Booker Prize-winning author from her birth in 1939 Ottawa through her success with The Handmaid’s Tale – the 1985 novel, the recent television adaptation, and the appropriation of its symbols and garments, by protestors in the Trump/#TimesUp era.

We discover a woman defiantly at odds with the mid-century conservatism of her formative years - who wryly reflects that The Handmaid's Tale is set in the New England area because of the sexism she encountered at Harvard (with its a males-only library): “Nobody figured out that The Handmaid’s Tale is about the Harvard English department”.

Margaret Atwood: A Word after a Word after a Word is Power premiered on SBS at 8.30pm on Sunday 1 December and is now available to stream at SBS On Demand.  

 


 

Watch season 3 of The Handmaid's Tale, only at SBS On Demand 

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