Friday, August 1, 2008

It takes a city -- Iowa City

I don't generally take on feel-good stories. As an arts and culture reporter, I like places where people collide, art that makes something happen, books that transform -- and not in the way an Oprah's book pic transforms. I like discovering who people are and why do they do what they do. I favor obsessives. I'll take funny and sad over uplifting any day of the week.

Well, have I got a feel-good story for you. For this month's Iowa Source I wrote a piece about the new documentary on Bill Sackter, the real-life character whom Mickey Rooney played in the 1982 made-for-TV movie Bill (he won a Golden Globe for the performance).

A Friend Indeed: The Bill Sackter story could easily be written off as a advocacy piece for the mentally disabled. It tells the story of a man who spent over four decades in a Minnesota mental institution before a young couple decided to adopt him and integrate him into a college town -- Iowa City, IA. This young husband was Barry Morrow, a young sociology student who eventually went on to win an Academy Award for the screenplay for Rain Man (1988).

But the film is very much a portrait of Iowa City, a place I have found to be uncommonly accepting of fuzzy-bearded, frazzled-looking homeless men who sit on the Pedestrian Mall and talk to students all day long. I don't think I've ever before felt the pride of place I had after watching this film's premiere.

I hope the film finds national distribution. It's playing at the Tipton Hardacre Film Festival this weekend, where it just took the prize for best documentary.


Lane Wyrick said...

Hi Emily,

Thanks for blogging about my documentary "A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story" and I appreciate your best wishes for the Hardacre Film Festival.

I just got back from the Hardacre Film Festival over the weekend, and the documentary was voted the "#1 Audience Favorite", and won "Best Documentary" and "Best Iowa Film".

I'll be screening it next at the Englert on October 1, 4, and 5, so I hope you and your readers get a chance to see it there (more info at

Take care,

Lane Wyrick, director/editor
A Friend Indeed - The Bill Sackter Story

Emily said...

Well, there you have it -- from the director's mouth. It's nice to see a local story have some legs. Don't wait until they screen it on Netflix Watch Instantly, check it out at the Englert.

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