Bird by Bird with Annie: A Portrait of Anne Lamott

A profile of bestselling author, humorist, recovering alcoholic, born-again Christian and single mother Anne Lamott.

Independent Lens
Premiere Date
April 22, 2003
60 minutes

Freida Mock

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The Film

Bird by Bird With Annie is a profile of the best-selling author and laugh-out loud humorist Anne Lamott (Blue Shoe, Traveling Mercie, Bird By Bird, Operating Instructions). The moving story of a survivor and an iconoclast, the film follows Lamott through a year of writing, teaching, and mothering. Lamott, a “sober alcoholic” and single mother, who is both a born-again Christian and a liberal activist, shares her self-effacing and ruthlessly honest insights into such universal concerns as loss, alienation, bad hair days, loneliness, creativity, motherhood, retail therapy, faith, and the meaning of life.

The film lets Lamott tell her own life story, recounting her childhood as a shy little girl who, much like her character Rosie, found solace in the written word. She talks about her feelings of being different and about the “drive-by shoutings” of boys who teased her for her kinky white hair. Channeling rejection into humor, Lamott found acceptance as the class clown, and discovered drinking at an early age. By 13, she says, she had become a regular drinker.

Bird by Bird With Annie explores the many facets of Lamott’s life—her years as an alcoholic, her pregnancy and experiences as a single mother, her writing, and her spiritual life. She stumbled upon St. Andrews Presbyterian Church one day when she was wandering in a Sausalito flea market, recovering from a hangover. It became her church home and has been her safe haven ever since.

Throughout the film, Lamott’s generosity of spirit is evident. A frequent and popular speaker at writers’ conferences, she demystifies the creative process and urges her listeners to keep writing no matter what. The film shows her working with writing students, reading at bookstores, speaking at church, and working as a lay minister at a convalescent home. Lamott likes to pass on the “secret of life” that she found written on a computer terminal bearing a picture of Koko the gorilla: “The law of the American jungle: Remain calm and share your bananas.” In the film, in her books and in person, Lamott lifts, comforts, and inspires, all the while keeping us laughing.