Walker Percy: A Documentary Film

In a rare television interview in 1980, Walker Percy said his concerns as writer were with “a theory of man, man as more than organism, more than consumer––man the wayfarer, man the pilgrim, man in transit, on a journey.” This one-hour program, entitled Walker Percy: A Documentary Film, looks at Percy’s own journey, and is framed as a narrative about his life and ideas.

As a doctor turned writer and philosopher, Percy was concerned with the big issues: “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" But he knew his audience was inured to a direct approach. Binx Bolling, in The Moviegoer, is almost allergic to such discussions-––“...if they spoke to me of God, I would jump into the bayou”––yet he is preoccupied with what he calls ‘the search.’ It is a preoccupation that haunts all of Percy’s work.

Part of what makes Percy’s characters like Binx, Will Barrett, and Thomas More so indelible is their wry humor despite being ‘Lost in the Cosmos.’ In Percy’s fifth novel, The Second Coming, the protagonist, Will Barrett, descends into a cave, determined to confront God. He is thwarted by a toothache. For Walker, “humor was an instrument of introspection,” writer Robert Coles says in the film. “That’s what he beautifully combined: that lighthearted sensibility merged with a grave, seriously introspective side. This takes a genius.”

Walker Percy: A Documentary Film tells the story with archival film, excerpts from Percy’s work, and interviews with family, friends and scholars. Three years in the making, Walker Percy: A Documentary Film is currently in post-production. Support for this film comes from The Watson Brown Foundation, The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, The Reily Foundation, The Southern Humanities Media Fund, The National Endowment for the Arts, and Brad Hipps.