San Francisco IndieFest 2024

The Problem of the Hero + Q&A

Expired February 19, 2024 7:59 AM
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March, 1941, the St. James Theatre in New York. On the eve of opening night, a difference of opinion over a single page of the script threatens an impasse between two literary giants of the 20th Century. As rehearsal continues around Richard Wright and Paul Green, led by the mercurial Orson Welles, the ensuing argument - delving into race, class, politics, and personal story - seems destined to dissolve the writers’ friendship.

Director Statement

Who has the right to tell a story and what are their obligations in the telling? We asked ourselves this question continually while making The Problem of the Hero.

In June and July of 1940, Richard Wright joined Paul Green at his office in Chapel Hill, NC, to dramatize Native Son for the Broadway stage. They ended their initial work together as friends, and shared (according to both of their recollections) a profound admiration for the other person.

Wright traveled back to New York where, under the influence of John Houseman and Orson Welles, he restored his own ending to the play (where Green had made changes) before the play’s opening in 1941. The film is our interpretation of the conflict that ensued.

Wright wrote about their many Chapel Hill conversations in the form of a debate between a White Man and Black Man which he called “The Problem of the Hero”. Though never published, Green did give his approval to the potential publisher. The portrait of the White Man, however respectful, is not entirely flattering.

At the core of their disagreement were conflicting fundamental beliefs and assumptions about America. Green was a former soldier who believed that democracy, steered by the voices of citizens such as himself, would gradually generate the change he wished to see. Wright was a communist at the time, who saw only the entrenched interests of power and wealth gripping the nation until a revolution of the marginalized forced them to let go. For this he saw little hope.

Though more than 80 years have passed, I doubt either would have changed their position, though they might agree that the situation is largely unchanged.

  • Runtime
    85 minutes
  • Country
    United States
  • Director
    Shaun Dozier