Lincoln in the Bardo, by Graham Sack


Lincoln in the Bardo is a New York Times VR project based on a book by George  Saunders and written and directed by Graham Sack.

In Lincoln in the Bardo, American master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Unfolding in a graveyard over the course of a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a literary experience unlike any other.

February 1862. The Civil War rages while President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son is gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a thrilling, supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory — called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo. Within this transitional state, where ghosts mingle, gripe, and commiserate, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo is a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices — living and dead, historical and invented — to ask a timeless question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

To learn more about this project, we interviewed Graham Sack, the writer and director of this VR short film.

Graham Sack is an award-winning screenwriter, director, and academic. His most recent screenplay, SEPTILLION TO ONE, made the 2015 Hollywood Blacklist, sold in one of the most competitive spec sales of the year, and is scheduled to go into production with Odd Lot Entertainment. Graham most recently directed a VR experience for New York Times VR and Penguin-Random House based on LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, a forthcoming novel by acclaimed short story writer George Saunders (to be released February 2017). He previously wrote and directed DON’T LOOK AWAY, an interactive cinematic VR experience about aging, time, and the scarcity of attention. He is currently writing OPERATION IVY LEAGUE, a true crime story about a drug cartel based in a college fraternity, for Langley Park Entertainment (GANGSTER SQUAD, TRAFFIC) and ANTIGRAVITY, the true story of the only man to predict the 1929 stock market crash, for Rocket Science Entertainment (APOLLO 13, LIAR LIAR). Graham also holds a BA in from Harvard, an MSc from the London School of Economics, and is completing a PhD in Digital Humanities at Columbia University, where his research is focused on computational approaches to storytelling.


About Author

Bijan Tehrani

Bijan Tehrani a film director, film critic and writer, works as editor in chief of Cinema Without Borders while teaching Language of Film and Film History at workshops nationwide. Bijan has won several awards in international film festivals and book fairs for his short films and children's books.

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