Four Things We Learned From The New Documentary About Margaret Atwood

There’s a new documentary about Margaret Atwood, A Word After a Word After a Word. From directors Nancy Lang and Peter Raymont, the doc follows the life and times of Canada’s brightest literary star, from her childhood growing up in the Canadian wilderness to her history of activism.
Winner of such prestigious prizes as the Booker, the Giller, and the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, few writers have achieved the profile importance of Ms. Atwood. That’s why it’s so exciting to watch a film about the pioneering writer’s very eventful life.
A Word After A Word After a Word premieres at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on November 7th with theatrical engagements coming later this month. Here are four things we learned from our pre-screening of this must-see movie.
1. She’s Funny As Hell
This doc proves the grande dame of Canadian literature is consummately witty. In one memorable moment, Atwood is approached by a fan at a Dutch art gallery. The admirer tells the legendary author how his high school English teacher made the class read The Handmaid’s Tale. Atwood replies without skipping a beat: “It did you good,” says the author with authority (no pun intended).
2.  She Loves Weeding
No, I don’t mean Ms. Atwood loves smoking weed (Though she might. The film does not get into her cannabis consumption). What the doc makes abundantly clear is how Maggie A. is passionate about yanking weeds from the actual ground. She is, however, self-ware about this obsession. The literary giant admits her audience would “get very bored” if she included her love of weeding in her writing.
3.  ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is About The Harvard English Department 
In addition to being influenced by the forced birth policies of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu’s government and America’s anti-choice politics, Atwood’s classic dystopia was also inspired by her time as a graduate student at Harvard. In the 1960s, the department didn’t hire women professors, and female grad students were barred from entering the school’s poetry library. Not letting women read books? That sounds like Gilead to us!
4. She and Graeme Gibson Had a Steamy Relationship
The doc makes it clear Atwood and late partner Graeme Gibson were a love match. Not only did these literary geniuses raise a daughter and enjoy bird watching together, the couple’s friends remember sexy stories about them getting busy in the House of Anansi Press stockroom. Now who says CanLit isn’t sexy?


Theatrical Engagements:

Hamilton, November 8 -14, The Playhouse

Waterloo, November 8 – 14, Princess Cinemas (Nov 8 with q/a with director Nancy Lang)

Edmonton, November 11, 13, Metro Cinema, Edmonton

Ottawa, November 13, ByTowne Cinema (q/a with director Peter Raymont)

Toronto, November 14-20, 22, 26, 28,  Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema (q/a’s with directors, date tbc)

Sarah Sahagian

Sarah Sahagian

Sarah Sahagian is a feminist writer based in Toronto. Her byline has appeared in such publications as Elle Canada, Flare, Bitch Media, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. She is also the co-host of You Do You: A Dating Podcast. Sarah holds a master’s degree in Gender Studies from The London School of Economics. You can find her on Twitter, where she posts about politics and live-tweets The Bachelor