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Monday, October 4 at 9 p.m. American Masters "A Letter to Elia"

(Rochester, NY) On Monday, October 4 at 9 p.m. WXXI-TV/HD (DT 21.1/cable 1011 and 11) presents A Letter to Elia, a documentary about director Elia Kazan. Written and directed by Martin Scorsese and his longtime collaborator Kent Jones, this deeply personal film presents a frank portrait and self-portrait, and an equally frank acknowledgement of the closeness and the distance between artists and their art.

In 1999 Elia Kazan received an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, an honor that divided Hollywood. Then 89 years old, Kazan was primarily remembered for his impressive directorial body of work in the 1950s — On the Waterfront, East of Eden, A Streetcar Named Desire, Gentleman’s Agreement, A Face in the Crowd — but remained controversial. To many, he was singularly and permanently emblematic of the sin of “naming names” before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. To others, his extraordinary work deserved recognition. One of his strongest supporters — one of the men who stood tall with Kazan in front of that divided Hollywood audience in 1999 — was the Martin Scorsese.

Scorsese appears on and off camera throughout A Letter to Elia, taking viewers through Kazan’s life and through his own, as well as through his growing realization that there was an artist behind the camera, someone “who knew me, maybe better than I knew myself.” The film is about being exposed to the right movies at the right moment in your adolescent life, when you’re wide open and ready to connect, to be spurred on by the work up there on the screen, and then, maybe, to chart a course toward making your own movies.

Composed of clips, stills, readings from Kazan’s autobiography and his speech on directing (read by Elias Koteas), a videotaped interview done late in Kazan’s life, and Scorsese’s commentary on and offscreen, A Letter to Elia takes a close look at the life of art and its creation – the work, the distractions, the inspirations, the complications, the intersections between art and experience. 

Pictured: Martin Scorsese with Elia Kazan

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