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The Book Lady

The Book Lady

image courtesy of Dolly Parton Imagination Library

Canadian filmmakers Brad Horvath and Natasha Ryan are in the midst of editing a documentary on Ms. Dolly Parton. The doc, called The Book Lady, will detail Parton’s Dollywood Foundation and her Imagination Library program in both the United States and Canada. There are featured interviews with Olympia Dukakis, Keith Urban, Miley Cyrus, Kurt Browning, Justin Rutledge, Sarah Harmer, Natalie McMaster, children’s author Robert Munsch and Parton herself… and the film, executive produced by Thom Fitzgerald (of Hanging Garden and 3 Needles), has already been presold to the CBC for national broadcast…

I’ll admit Horvath and Ryan are something like close friends of mine (as is Fitzgerald, who gave me my first job out of undergrad despite my, um, limited resume). Something like close friends enough that during a trip to New York last fall, they trusted me enough to allow me to photograph them deep in debate regarding the merits of Blackout:

But with that humbling embarrassment out of the way (they’ll try and tell you the photo was set-up for a joke, and they were not at all drunkenly stumbling into a release party for the disc), I’ll stroke their egos back up by also admitting I would have no interest posting anything about something if I wasn’t certain of its inevitable glory. Horvath’s previous work includes producing for Fitzgerald’s Emotion Pictures and a bunch of well-received Canadian films such as Love That Boy and Love, Sex and Eating The Bones. Ryan is currently directing episodes for TeleFilm Canada funded and highly addictive (ask any Canadian graduate student with enough money for cable) doc series, X-Weighted.

What’s more, the project shows a surprising side of Parton (at least in terms of what I’ve been told and witnessed)… Her Imagination Library is a program that mails free, age-appropriate books each month to preschool children. Parton has given millions of books to American children since initially setting up Imagination Library in 1996 to aid children in her home state of Tennessee. In 2007, she partnered with Canadian charitable organization, Invest in Kids, and brought the campaign to several Canadian communities, including two in Nova Scotia. This is where Horvath and Ryan – both Nova Scotia natives – come in. From travelling to Dollywood, to shooting at the Waycobah First Nation in Nova Scotia, where they interviewed a mother who has been receiving books for her children through the program as well as local health centre staff who help administer the program in the community.

The doc’s impending completion comes at a time when Parton is returning to the spotlight in a way she hasn’t in a while.. She just released a video for “her first mainstream country single” in 17 years (though recently canceled promotional appearances due to an injury which she’s publicly admitted was due to her large breasts) and has a new album out in the next month.

The video’s embedded below, mostly because it features one of my all times, Amy Sedaris (who is “rumored” to be partaking in the doc as well), and also because its actually a pretty great song despite my general distaste for country:

If you’re interested in learning more about the doc or etc.. email Brad Horvath at bhorvath at emotionpictures dot ca

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