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Written by Executive Director Ed Southern

Writers who came to the Network’s 2018 Fall Conference in Charlotte* got to see an abridged production of NCWN member Ian Finley’s play Native, brought to us by EbzB Productions. Native recounts the fraught (and ultimately failed) collaboration between renowned novelist Richard Wright and Pulitzer-winning playwright Paul Green, as they tried to adapt Wright’s classic Native Son for the stage.

Now moviegoers everywhere may get to see the film adapted from that play, The Problem of the Hero, directed by Shaun Dozier.

The Problem of the Hero premiered last month at the Santa Fe Film Festival, winning a festival award. The movie moves the action from Green’s Chapel Hill home to the St. James Theater in New York City, where Orson Welles is about to open their play** . . . if the two writers can resolve their impasse over a single page of the script.

Like the play—and like the actual argument between Green and Wright—the film confronts questions of authorship and ownership of a story, questions that in this country inevitably run into questions of race and patriotism, of the nation’s history and possibility.

Green, one of the first inductees into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, was as renowned for his social activism as he was for his writing, but even he had no definite answer to the questions posed by his work with Wright: Who gets to tell a story? What obligations does a storyteller then face?

In a release, Executive Producer Serena Ebhardt said, “It’s a film that’s rooted in a true historical event between two individuals from different backgrounds who are working towards the same end, but through different perspectives. We firmly believe the conversation is still deeply relevant to the current time in which we live.”

Film festivals around the country are considering The Problem of the Hero, and the Paul Green Foundation (led by NCWN trustee Georgann Eubanks) has said they and the producers hope to host a showing in Green’s home state soon.

* That was the last time the Fall Conference came to Charlotte. It will come back to Charlotte this fall, so maybe one of the Master Classes will get the movie treatment this time.

** In real life, Green and Wright never finished their stage adaptation.