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Milwaukee Documentarian Explores True 'Myth' in 'Tolkien & Lewis'

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Dave Harrison
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The famous conversation between J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Hugo Dyson happened during their teachings at Oxford College.

Milwaukee documentarian Chip Duncan has profiled presidents, football coaches and humanitarian crises.  For his latest project, he returns to another subject he's visited in the past – the English author C.S. Lewis, known especially for his Chronicles of Narnia. 

In 1931, Lewis had a sudden Christian conversion, and it informed his work for the rest of his life.  Duncan’s newest film, Tolkien and Lewis: Myth, Imagination, and the Quest for Meaning, explores that fateful evening.

"I think Lewis is kind of the classic example of what an epiphany is, but his journey was a long journey," notes the film's editor Bob Huck.

Duncan first explored C.S. Lewis in his 2002 film The Magic Never Ends. "When we were creating that show and a companion book...the thing that intrigued me the most was one particular night in 1931 when Lewis and Tolkien and a fellow scholar named Hugo Dyson got together for dinner."

Tolkien and Dyson, both Catholics, convinced Lewis that Christianity was "the true myth." Duncan's personal fascination by all faiths sparked yet another project centered around C.S. Lewis that will play in the Milwaukee Film Festival on October 27th and October 3rd.

"This conversation over eight and a half hours must've been an extraordinary conversation among two of the world's premiere authors," says Duncan. "So the question we were faced with in the sequel is if we look at just that evening's discussion, what did they talk about?"

"We have done what we can, not to recreate that evening, but to bring together academic voices, scholars from a variety of perspectives (not strictly Christian) to create a discussion that we think they might have had," adds Bob Huck.

Tolkien and Lewis: Myth, Imagination, and the Quest for Meaning, will play Tuesday afternoon at the Downer Theater and next Monday at the Milwaukee film festival. It’s on a double-bill with the Milwaukee Public Television documentary, Behind the Pearl Earrings.

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Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.