The First Lady of Manawaka is an excellent 1978 documentary on Canadian author Margaret Laurence, available in full on the NFB website. I only discovered it recently — and along the way found the NFB website to be a wonderful collection of documentaries from past decades available to the public. This one was directed by Robert Duncan. I first watched this documentary about twenty years ago, in the late Professor Laura Groening’s Canadian Literature class at Concordia University in Montreal. Professor Groening — who at the time still typed exam questions and assignments on a typewriter and taught Canadian literature when it had only recently entered the university curriculum as a ‘legitimate’ field of study — introduced me to the Canadian novel and to Laurence’s iconic work The Diviners. The First Lady of Manawaka is as exceptional as is this excerpt from Laurence herself:
“At the day of Judgement God will say: ‘What have you done with your life?’ And I’ll say: ‘Well, let’s see, Sir. I think I loved my kids.’ And He’ll say: ‘Are you certain about that?’ And I’ll say: ‘God, I’m not certain about anything anymore.’ So He’ll say: ‘To Hell with you then! We’re all positive thinkers up here.’ Then again, maybe He wouldn’t. Maybe He’d say: ‘Don’t worry. I’m not all that certain either. Sometimes I wonder if I even exist.’ And I’d say: ‘I know what you mean, Lord. I have the same trouble myself.'”
The full NFB documentary is available here.