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University of Iowa News Release


March 3, 2009

Raskin will screen his Academy Award finalist at the UI March 11

Documentary filmmaker Josh Raskin, winner of the 2008 Essay Prize and a finalist for the Academy Award, will screen his award-winning animated documentary, "I Met the Walrus," at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 11, in the Iowa Memorial Union's Bijou Theater. The event, sponsored by the University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program, will be free and open to the public.

Screened at more than a dozen film festivals including Sundance, the American Film Institute, the Brooklyn Film Festival, San Francisco Shorts, the Ottawa International Animation Festival and the Middle East International Film Festival in the United Arab Emirates, "I Met the Walrus" has won five best-documentary film awards and was a finalist for the 2008 Academy Award for Best Animated Short.

The film is based on the audio recording of a 1969 interview that John Lennon gave to a 14-year-old boy named Jerry Levitan. Obsessed with Lennon, Levitan set out to meet his favorite Beatle when he heard that Lennon would be touring Canada with Yoko Ono for a series of "bed-in" protests against the Vietnam War. Upon hearing that Lennon would visit Toronto, Levitan borrowed his father's reel-to-reel recorder, took a bus to the city's fanciest hotel and started roaming the guest floors for some glimpse of his hero.

When a housekeeper asked the boy, "Are you looking for the Beatle?" Levitan said, "Yes," and followed the woman to an open door, outside of which he found Yoko's daughter coloring in the hallway. Levitan walked into the room, took out his reel-to-reel, and sat down on a couch to await Lennon's arrival. After having ignored reporters for months during this period, Lennon supposedly laughed at the 14-year-old's intrusion and agreed to an interview for the next 40 minutes.

Thirty-eight years later, Raskin wove that historic interview into a five-minute-long documentary that romances Lennon's every word. Using hand-drawn images and stop-motion animation collaged with the recording, Raskin created a cascading flood of imagery, a free-associating visual map of Lennon's train of thought, and perhaps also a glimpse into the mind of his interviewer -- the 14-year-old boy who stands in for all of us -- his imagination unloosed by a life-changing encounter.

Raskin will screen several other short documentary films and then sit down for a discussion with UI faculty member Jeff Porter about the intersection of films and essays.

The Essay Prize, which prompted Raskin's UI visit, is an annual award given to a work of art that best demonstrates "the art of essaying." Nominations for this award are made anonymously by a rotating committee of 20 artists who work in a variety of media. The winner of the Essay Prize is selected from those nominations by graduate students in the UI Nonfiction Writing Program.

The Nonfiction Writing Program is a graduate program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell),