This feature-length Oscar®-nominated documentary focuses on Malcolm Lowry, author of one of the major novels of the 20th century, Under the Volcano. But while Lowry fought a winning battle with words, he lost his battle with alcohol. Shot on location in four countries, the film combines photographs, readings by Richard Burton from the novel and interviews with the people who loved and hated Lowry, to create a vivid portrait of the man.
Cut from the same cloth as Malcolm Lowry, Donald understood the brotherhood of drunkards. As such, this was one of his favourite films.
The crew arrived in Mexico just before the Day of the Dead. Donald was comfortable working with a small crew. Cinematographer Douglas Kiefer shot a huge number of the extraordinary images without direction and Brittain knew how to bind them into a film.
Producer Robert Duncan did all the research, and John Kramer edited that film for months. On Sunday afternoons Don and John would get together and play chess with each other and debate; John became his surrogate son. It became very involved. There were a whole series of connections in that film, not just between Don and Malcolm but between Don and the crew. He was happy to share the directing credit on this one. He felt the universe had aligned itself properly; he was able to do something quite extraordinary.
There's also the whole bit about Richard Burton, another alcoholic, who he desperately wanted to narrate the film. He finally tracked him down in a hotel room in London and flew there to convince him to do it. And he succeeded.Adam Symansky
From the playlist: Donald Brittain: Writer, filmmaker, storyteller.