Director / Producer
Geralyn White Dreyfous
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Caitlin Mae Burke
Every morning, a small staff of obituary writers at The New York Times deposits the details of three or four extraordinary lives into the cultural memory – each life’s story spun amid the daily beat of war, politics, and football scores. It’s amazing what goes on in the obits.
There are only a handful of editorial obituary writers in the world, and none are better than at The Times, where obits have become some of the best writing in journalism. Documentary storytelling in print. First drafts of contemporary history. Mirrors of life’s great variety, humor and pathos. Neatly framed vignettes of worlds that will vanish along with their notable stars.
OBIT is the first documentary to look into the world of editorial obituaries, via the legendary obit desk at The Times. The film invites some of the most essential questions we ask ourselves about life, memory and the inevitable passage of time. What do we choose to remember? What never dies?
TRIBECA (world premiere)
HOT DOCS (int'l premiere)
KINO LORBER [US]
"You’ve Read the Obits, Now See the Movie" – Margalit Fox (link)
"Obit for the Obits" – Bruce Weber (link)
"Director Vanessa Gould has crafted the perfect documentary with morbid wit and fearless curiosity... Obit morphs into a chilling suspense thriller as obituary writer Bruce Weber battles with a blank page under a tight deadline. This type of conflict is unique to the writer, and rarely caught on film in such gory detail... Death, the great haunter, hovers at the foot of this film, but is examined in a way that is surprisingly inspirational, uplifting and often hilarious." ★★★★★
– William Garre
"Obit teems with colorful anecdotes. Gould’s camera hovers as reporters research, call relatives and pitch pieces to editors. She mixes the fly-on-the-wall work with abnormally eloquent interviews — these are Times writers, after all — and splashes of archival footage to take us outside the cubicles. The film celebrates human achievement and human strangeness. It effuses an obit writer’s intellectual curiosity and itch for a good story."
– Soheil Rezayazdi
"At The New York Times, the obituary beat is no career dead-end. Obit editor William McDonald gets to weigh the desires of writers like Bruce Weber and Paul Vitello, who seem often to fall in love with these people they'll never meet. Those writers make for fun company here, however much they claim people avoid them at cocktail parties. But they're sometimes upstaged by seersucker- clad Jeff Roth, an overseer of the paper's vast archive of clippings. Wry about the arcane way things are organized (or not) here, he's an obsessive whose enthusiasm is contagious."
– John DeFore
"4 Must-See Movies from the Tribeca Film Festival" (link)
"Documentary Goes Inside the Secret World of N.Y. Times Obit Writers" (link)
"Tribeca 2016 Women Directors: Meet Vanessa Gould – ‘Obit’" (link)
"'Died Is Died Is Died': Talking with Vanessa Gould and Margalit Fox of Obit" (link)
"With Obit, Vanessa Gould proves something I’ve said for years: pound-for-pound…or perhaps word-for-word is more apt…there is no better writing, and no better storytelling, in any national daily newspaper than there is in the obituary section."
"Gould, who received a Peabody Award for Between the Folds, a documentary exploring the art of origami, brings a type of Errol Morris intimacy to the film as her interviewees stare down the barrel of the camera while extemporizing, seemingly without need of a directorial nudge."
"Briskly edited by Kristin Bye...Vanessa Gould’s doc makes a strong case for the well-wrought obituary as something of an art form."