The Pulitzer at 100
The Pulitzer at 100
THE PULITZER AT 100, a new documentary from Oscar-winning director Kirk Simon opens July 21 at Lincoln Plaza Cinema in New York City, celebrating the centenary of this revered and seminal national award for literary excellence in journalism and the arts.
The totality of the Pulitzers has had an immeasurable impact on the American sensibility and beyond over the past 100 years. The riveting tales of the winning artists give an insider's view of how these pinnacles of achievement are selected in the twenty-one categories and how the award has the power to change lives and communities. The diverse stories explored in the film relate to immigration, race, gender, and above all freedom of speech – all issues that are ever more relevant in America today.
Featuring interviews with several notable prize recipients, including authors, journalists, playwrights and musicians such as Toni Morrison, Michael Chabon, Junot Díaz, Tony Kushner, Paula Vogel, Ayad Akhtar, Carl Bernstein, Robert Caro, Martin Baron, Nicholas Kristof, Thomas Friedman, David Remnick, Wynton Marsalis and John Adams, the film also brings Pulitzer-winning works to life through readings by Martin Scorsese, Helen Mirren, Natalie Portman, Liev Schreiber, John Lithgow and Yara Shahidi, all of whom bring their own talents to bear on the words of their favorite writers.
Carl Bernstein remembers the night of threats when it was revealed he was about to break the story that would bring down a Presidency. Bernstein’s reporting along with Bob Woodward showed how even two young reporters in their twenties could change the course of a nation.
Nick Ut never dreamed his photo of a nine-year-old girl running down Highway 1 in Vietnam as her body burned from Napalm would change the course of the Vietnam War. Remarkably, Phan Thị Kim Phúc OOnt long referred to as "The Napalm Girl," now in her fifties, tells her story in the film.
AP's description of the photo is telling:
On June 8, 1972, AP Photographer Nick Ut captured what would become a Pulitzer Prize winning photo depicting children fleeing from a Napalm bombing during the Vietnam War. In the center of the frame running towards the camera was a naked 9-year-old girl, Phan Thị Kim Phúc, also known as 'Napalm Girl.' In 1973, AP Photographer Nick Ut won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography for "The Terror of War", his photograph featuring Phan Thị Kim Phúc. The image was unprecedented at the time for the Associated Press news wire, due to full frontal nudity depicted of the bombing victims. Although somewhat controversial, Ut’s fellow Associated Press colleagues, Hal Buell and Horst Faas deemed the photograph news-worthy and its value overrode the nudity in the image and it was widely distributed on the AP newswire. The photograph is thought to be one of the most memorable photographs of the 20th century.
Interwoven with the stories of the journalists and artists and readings is the history of the man who created it. Joseph Pulitzer, who came to America to fight as a mercenary in the Civil War, left money to Columbia University upon his death in 1911. A portion of his bequest was used to found the School of Journalism in 1912, not only to elevate the professionalism and to improve the craft but also to establish the Pulitzer Prizes which were first awarded in 1917. Today, both the iconic prizes and the prominence of the School of Journalism at Columbia represent the highest standards of integrity and excellence in writing.
A thoughtful and colorful tapestry of the last 100 years of journalistic and artistic life in America, The Pulitzer at 100 is an illuminating and thought-provoking work that will spark the imagination of viewers, marking the beginning of a re-exploration and revisiting of the astonishing power of literature, in all forms, that have enriched our lives, whilst containing a century-long social commentary on the human condition, wherein lie many answers to the problems manifested in the world today.
A theme of the film is how this country confronts racism: introduced by the work of Toni Morrison in her masterpiece Beloved, continued by discussion of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, elaborated further by musician Wynton Marsalis as he introduces his prize winning work “Blood on the Fields” about a slave family as they prepare to travel from the South to the North and finally a dissection of the events of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans as seen in the reporting of The Times-Picayune.
There are more than a thousand recipients of this prestigious award including journalists, novelists, poets, musicians and photographers and this film has been made from the most valuable of resources, the artists themselves, many of whom are featured in The Pulitzer at 100:
Carl Bernstein, The Washington Post, Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, 1973
Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting & Affairs, 1983,1988 & 2002
Martin Baron, Editor of The Washington Post, Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, National Reporting and Explanatory Journalism, 2014, 2015 & 2016
Robert Caro, Pulitzer Prize for Biography, 1975 & 2003
David Remnick, Editor-in-Chief of The New Yorker, Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, 1994
Sheri Fink, Pulitzer Winner for Investigative Reporting, 2010 & 2015
Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting and Commentary, 1990 & 2006
Carol Leonnig, Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and National Reporting, 2014 & 2015
Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars, Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, 2012
Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 1999
Paula Vogel, writer of How I Learned To Drive, Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 1998
Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 2008
Wynton Marsalis, Pulitzer Prize for Music, 1997
John Adams, Pulitzer Prize for Music, 2003
Nick Ut, Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography, 1973
Kirk Simon is an Oscar and Emmy-winning producer and director of documentary films for more than 30 years. In addition to winning an Academy Award for the HBO short documentary Strangers No More, he has also been nominated three other times, and won the duPont-Columbia Silver Baton. His films have had national broadcasts on PBS, HBO and MTV.
Highlights in his oeuvre include the Emmy-winning Masterclass, an HBO series in which great artists mentor high school students; also for HBO, he was responsible for numerous programs including the 14-part series Kindergarten, which continues to be broadcast each morning on HBO Family. Mr. Simon's first film for HBO was Chimps: So Like Us with Dr. Jane Goodall, which required Mr. Simon to sleep in a tent on the shore of Lake Tanganyika for three weeks to make this Oscar nominated and Emmy-winning program. He was also responsible for the award-winning series Coming Out Stories on MTV's LOGO that portrayed the emotional process of coming out in the LGBT community. Entertainment Weekly wrote, "this touching series marks a high point for the network."
For PBS, Mr. Simon has produced and/or directed programs for American Masters, American Playhouse, American Experience, Masterpiece Theater and The National Geographic. For American Masters, Mr. Simon produced the Emmy-nominated Buckminster Fuller: Thinking Out Loud in 1996 and the Oscar-nominated biography of Isaac Bashevis Singer in 1986. For National Geographic, shows produced and directed by Mr. Simon include both Cairo Unveiled and Incredible Human Body.
Mr. Simon is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Writer's Guild of America, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and the Producer's Guild of America.