WINNER: TOP 25 LIBERTARIAN DOCUMENTARIES
NOMINEE: ACADEMY AWARD BEST DOCUMENTARY
A detailed documentary examination of philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand’s life and work. [Dir: Michael Paxton/ 145 min/ Documentary-Educational, Biography/ Ayn Rand-Objectivism, Libertarian Heroes]
Despite Ayn Rand’s rejection of the libertarian movement, she remains one of its strongest influences. This loving biography should appeal to her many libertarian fans.
In the beginning of the film a picture of her youth is drawn through old letters and photographs and her own reminiscences, from which it’s clear that the Ayn Rand we all know developed very early. She was an independent young woman who took a special interest in self-reliant, adventurous fictional characters of the type she would later create herself. That sense of independence and reaching for the best one can do, that “sense of life” as the title says, gave her the boldness and the drive to live the amazing life that followed: emigrating alone from Soviet Russia to America, working in Hollywood at the height of its powers, becoming a successful novelist, and developing and promoting her world-challenging philosophy.
As one might expect in a two-and-a-half-hour documentary, there is a great deal of detail in this presentation, including a surprising amount of video footage and photographs. These add much to the generally entertaining telling. But a few things are also left out. In particular, the well-known Nathaniel Branden affair is covered only briefly and is smoothed over with the implication that Branden alone was at fault. This may seem like an airbrushed picture of the situation to Rand fans, many of whom already know the full story.
This controlled quality, likewise reflected in the absence of interviews with some of the more prominent (but perhaps inadequately uncritical) people she knew and affected, reduces the emotional impact of the film. Nonetheless, it’s a very professional job and will likely attract even more readers to her work. Given that Rand’s novels have sold by the hundreds of thousands and that American readers have rated her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, as the second most influential book in their lives after the Bible, this film is way overdue. Yes, it’s hero worship. But what better tribute for a hero-worshipper?
External Reviews of Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life
“Benefiting from some first-rate archival, personal and commercial film material, Michael Paxton’s Oscar-nominated effort serves as a solid and appreciative precis of her life and world views…”
“…an enriching historical perspective of the life and times of best-selling author Ayn Rand.”
–Pro Box Office