Park City book clubs and screenings spark discussions on adaptations
Daniel Compton isn’t interested in your hot takes. He prefers the long-lost art of “conversation.”
That’s the Summit County Library’s Book to Film Club organizer’s goal. He runs a mixed media book club that has met monthly for six years.
The club meets at 6 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month to discuss books and their film adaptations. Compton, director of the Summit County Library, says it’s been a unique way to present the age-old book club format and tackle topics in film, literature and what connects the two.
Also, it lessens the embarrassment if someone didn’t do their reading.
“It takes some of that pressure off and I think that’s why people have responded well to it,” he said.
Next Thursday the group will meet to discuss the 2017 British film “The Bookshop,” adapted from a 1978 novel by the same name. And next month, in lieu of the regularly scheduled meeting, the club will join several other organizations, like the Social Equity Book Club at the Park City Library, a series of readings, discussions and a screening of the film “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.” The events culminate with a lecture with the book’s author as part of the Park City Education Foundation’s One Book One Community program.
“It takes a community to make it successful,” said Kara Cody, programs director for the Park City Education Foundation.
The story of “The Bookshop” may — or may not — sound familiar to Summit County residents.
It follows a widow named Florence Green who moves to a sleepy seaside resort in eastern England and opens a book store in a building that was secretly set aside to become an arts center.
Hilarity ensues when the town quickly shows its fangs. Florence wasn’t part of the plan.
“Those are always going to be interesting discussions because there’s always situations in every community where you see power being abused and things like that, so you can always make those relatable to things that are going on,” Compton said.
The One Book One Community screening and events leading up to it have their own local connection as it marks the return of William Kamkwamba, a Malawian inventor and the author of “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” to Park City. He originally found himself in town during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where the film adaptation of his story premiered.
He will also give a series of talks to students at Park City High School and Treasure Mountain Junior High, Cody said.
The story chronicles how Kamkwamba, then a boy, hit the books to learn how to build a wind turbine to draw water from the earth and help his village in Malawi survive the famine that ravaged the southeastern African nation in 2002. Now, Kamkwamba is a high-profile advocate for technical literacy in developing countries and has upgraded the turbine several times.
“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” has been adapted not only to film, but distilled into a kid-friendly picture book as well. Cody said that she believes adaptations have inherent value in getting stories in all mediums in front of more people.
“It’s great because it can reach a wider audience,” Cody said. “No matter what genre format someone is into, they can connect with this story.”
Adapt and survive
Adapting a story from medium to medium can be a tightrope for creators as certain plot points and scenes that work in a book might not translate to film and vice versa. It only gets more complicated when the stories are true – or politically charged. In at least one case, as in Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 film adaptation of the fiction “Starship Troopers,” a director has openly stated his disgust with the source material.
Compton has overseen numerous thought-provoking discussions not only on the stories his club has covered but on the nature of adaptation itself, he said. Oftentimes, attendees might prefer one version of a story to another, and other times the film adaptation is viewed as an ideal complement to the literature.
In one case, club attendees actually preferred “The Intouchables,” a 2011 French film inspired by “You Changed My Life,” an autobiography about the friendship between a French-Algerian chauffeur and the aristocrat he works for.
The story was filtered through yet another cultural lens this year with the release of the “The Upside,” an American adaptation starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart. Compton tends to be wary of most attempts to bring stories stateside.
“If you haven’t seen ‘The Intouchables’ yet, definitely give that one a chance,” Compton said.
In an era where much of the discussion surrounding art takes place as flame wars online — or, more commonly, as idle thoughts shouted into the Twitter void — Compton said he thinks it’s valuable to get community members to foster a discourse face to face.
“It’s really nice to have this safe place where you can have a discussion of some of these issues because I just feel like we have fewer opportunities to actually meet in person and have discussions like this.”
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the time of day the Book to Film Club meets.
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