Margaret Atwood: A Word after a Word after a Word is Power

Margaret Atwood’s work has arguably never been more relevant than it is today. Readers are turning to it as they face the rise of authoritarian politics, rapidly evolving technologies and the slow-motion disaster of climate change. Her poems and books often meditate on survival, and for many, they’re also survival tools in themselves.

The success of the television adaptation of her novel The Handmaid’s Tale has made Atwood even more of a household name. The launch of the book’s highly anticipated sequel, The Testaments, made international news. Nearly two million people follow Atwood’s early-morning tweets.

Yet few know the private Margaret Atwood. Who is the woman behind these stories? How does she always seem to know what’s to come?

Over the course of a year, a film crew had exclusive access to Atwood and her late partner Graeme Gibson as the couple travelled to speaking engagements around the world, where Atwood was enthusiastically welcomed by crowds of all ages.

In the resulting documentary, we get a rare glimpse at the author’s practice as she completes the final chapters of The Testaments on planes, on boats and on the road. We also accompany Atwood to the set of The Handmaid’s Tale, where she meets with Ane Crabtree, the designer of the blood-red robes now worn by protesters around the world, and lead actor Elisabeth Moss.

The film delves into Atwood’s backstory: her childhood spent in the Canadian wilderness, her early days at Harvard, and how she came to meet Gibson and write The Handmaid’s Tale. Stories are shared by Atwood’s closest friends and family, and, of course, by the author herself.

Atwood’s major works are also explored and threaded throughout the film, revealing the personal and societal factors that informed her writing. Her poetry and prose are read by actor Tatiana Maslany.

A shorter version of this film, Margaret Atwood: Encounters will premiere on CBC on Thursday November 14 at 8 pm. It will appear on CBC GEM on Thursday November 18.

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