Tuesday, May 23, 2023. Sunny and warm in the 70s in New York. Perfect weather, at least for the next few days. The temperatures really move around more frequently, it seems.
I went to lunch at Sette Mezzo with James Egan, an old friend from my Los Angeles days. James, who produces documentaries, also left L.A. several years ago and now lives in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts. He’d come to New York this past weekend for the premiere of Life & Life, a documentary that he executive-produced with Lee Child, writer of Jack Reacher, the #1 show on Amazon Prime.
Also joining us was NC Heikin, the film’s director. The premiere was a gala event this past Sunday at the Harlem Film Festival at the Magic Johnson Theater. The film has garnered several awards.
The subject is surviving a life sentence and life after prison. Ms. Heikin’s work is to educate and promote improving parole practices and finding ways to support people who return to civilian life after decades in prison. You might think, as I did, why would I want to see a film about that? But after talking about the film – which sounds fascinating and informative – I’m looking forward to seeing it this weekend.
And I understand now. Here’s the trailer:
The film grew out of an exceptional all-star jazz concert Ms. Heikin and Mr. Egan presented inside San Quentin for the prison population. Following the concert, one of the inmates asked if he could play a tune with the all-star band. His performance on the piano was considered by all to be brilliant. This inmate became the subject of Life & Life.
“The filmmaker crafted a powerful narrative about the possibilities of redemption within a flawed system of mass incarceration, and used several unique storytelling techniques to navigate the story both tragic and hopeful, of aging parolees trying to find their way after decades behind bars.” — Best Feature Documentary Brooklyn Film Festival.
You can watch the film online as it is available on numerous platforms, including Amazon and iTunes and you can find it here.
Last night. Dinner with Sally Bedell Smith. Also at Sette Mezzo. Sally who lives in Washington used to dine at Sette when she lived in New York and, as it turns out she still visits when she’s in town.
If you didn’t know, Sally is the brilliant impressively productive and engaging historian — including several volumes on members of the British Royal Family. Her latest book, which was more than four years in research and interviews, is called George VI and Elizabeth — the parents of the late Queen and grandparents of their off-spring including the new King Charles III.
The “Elizabeth” in this story is remembered now as Elizabeth, the Queen Mother — her official title after her daughter took the Throne. And her husband King George VI, who was originally “The Spare” growing up. He became King when his older brother David, briefly King Edward VIII, gave up the throne to marry Mrs. Simpson, the American divorcee.
The misfortune for the Royal Family — losing their King — turned out to be a good idea considering the history of it all. King George and Elizabeth were excellent and conscientious, and obviously even loving parents to the young Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret. And they lived through the Second World War and the bombings of Buckingham Palace where they remained in residence out of respect for the citizens of the capitol.
Sally’s currently been on a tour promoting the book, to Philadelphia, Charleston, South Carolina, Chicago, now New York and then in Nantucket in June and Lenox, Mass. in July.
And there’s more after that. Away from her research, her interviews, her writing; all quite serious because of the nature of the subjects, she’s one of those girls who loves conversation from howja-do’s to stories about the world she covers from top to bottom. She has a natural demeanor for listening while seriously enjoying the talker, and gathering information for her books.
Meanwhile back at yesterday’s Diary of the book party for Sarah Giles’ book on Fred Astaire with photographs by Mary Hilliard.
Today we’re running the second part of the party, the after-party which took place at Mortimer’s. These are photos of those attending that gathering. After-parties have a different atmosphere, mainly an opportunity to continue to party.
Interestingly Mary had the wrong lens on this camera — it was for close-ups — as indeed that’s the way they came out. But they came out great. This was 35 years ago in New York. Worth a look; worth a reminder.