JMU professor/filmmaker brings documentary to national PBS audience

dangerous edgeEmmy-award winning writer/director and James Madison University professor Thomas O’Connor’s latest film, Dangerous Edge: A Life of Graham Greene, is set for its North American premiere on Friday, March 29, at 10:30 pm on WVPT and PBS stations across the country.  The film captures the enigmatic life of British author Graham Greene. British actor Sir Derek Jacobi is the film’s narrator. Actor Bill Nighy (Love Actually, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) provides the voice of the author. 

“WVPT is thrilled to broadcast this program, especially with this unique local connection with Tom as the producer, director and writer,” said David Mullins, WVPT President and General Manager.  “And we are also honored to be a part of the pre-broadcast screening event.”

JMU’s School of Media Arts and Design is hosting a free public screening of Dangerous Edge on Sunday, March 24, at 3 pm, at The Court Square Theater in Harrisonburg. The event will open with a short documentary film by fellow JMU professor Mike Grundmann. Following the screening the audience will be invited for a Q&A session with the filmmakers.

Dangerous Edge is the first American-produced documentary about Greene, one of the literary giants of the 20th century. “As a filmmaker, I was drawn to him because he’s a hugely important, colorful figure,” O’Connor said, “and because a generation of Americans don’t know him in the way they know Hemmingway, for example.”

Graham Greene’s 50 books spanned seven decades and sold tens of millions of copies in

countless languages. More than 100 of his stories have been adapted for television, theater, and film — some twice, such as The Quiet American and The End of the Affair. As a journalist for 60 years, Greene covered the most dangerous events of the past century: World War II, Kenya’s Mau Mau Rebellion, the Vietnam War, Haiti’s “nightmare republic,” the rise of Castro, and the fall of the Soviet Union.

In making the film, finding footage of Graham Greene proved difficult.  A manic-depressive who traveled extensively to escape what he called the “boredom” of everyday life, Greene avoided television interviews, O’Connor said, for fear of appearing like “a performing monkey.” Aside from remarks in an airport in Prague, film surreptitiously taken of Greene while visiting a leper colony in the Congo, and his surrender to a BBC television crew outside his Paris apartment, little film of the author exists. Dangerous Edge, therefore, also relies on interviews with people who knew him; on clips from his famous movies, including The Third Man, The End of the Affair, Our Man in Havana and The Quiet America; and on hundreds of photos gathered from sources worldwide.

“It’s the kind of documentary that many [independent filmmakers] will shy away from,” said Executive Producer Barbara De Fina, Martin Scorsese’s long time producer (Good Fellas, The Age of Innocence,Hugo). O’Connor approached De Fina five years ago when she and Scorsese were considering a remake of Greene’s The Heart of the Matter. “There’s so much work in the licensing and clearing of material,” De Fina said, “that just a minute of footage can require 20 or more licenses. I don’t think he knew how difficult it would be.”

“Indeed, if I had known how much work the film would be, I probably never would have started,” said O’Connor, “but I’m delighted that I did. The best part of doing it was all the wonderful people I met along the way. I am grateful for their friendship and support, and I hope that seeing the film will inspire viewers to get to know Graham Greene better.”

Dangerous Edge: A Life of Graham Greene, is being distributed internationally. It premiered in Londonrecently and it premieres in Australia this month.


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