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Roanoke native wins awards at Austin Film Festival for documentary on his family’s journey through grief

A father and son left to promote a mother’s critically acclaimed book spawns documentary

ROANOKE, Va. – A Roanoke native has made quite an impact at the Austin Film Festival with his unique documentary.

“The Book Keepers” is a film essentially about its name: a father and son are left to promote a mother’s critically acclaimed book.

In 2011, Carol Wall’s dreams had come true when she signed a contract with a publishing company to write a book. However, by the time it hit store shelves, Carol was in and out of a local hospital deathly ill with breast cancer.

At the end of 2014, Carol died, never seeing her dream reach its full potential.

“[She] was never able to leave the house to promote this book like even one time,” said Dick Wall, Carol’s late husband.

A few months after his wife’s death, Dick got a call from her publisher.

“In March 2015, the agent called me and said ‘It’s time for you to get on the road with this book. It’s been out a year, you have to do it.’ It was not a question, it was a directive,” said Dick.

Following orders, Dick hit the road to promote his late wife’s book, and their son, Phil, decided to tag along for support.

“They’re looking at the book and they’re looking at me, and I got to tell them I’m here because she died. Well hell, that’s sort of a downer,” Dick said. “You don’t get over losing a spouse. You cannot be cured from lots of things, but you can heal,” Dick said.

Phil started to see light shining through his dad as he told his story at each stop on the book tour. It wasn’t long before Phil picked up his camera and started documenting the healing he was witnessing first hand.

“I started thinking like something powerful here is happening and what if I could document this experience and create a film where at the end of it a conversation starts,” Phil said.

The tour promoting Carol’s book spawned the documentary, “The Book Keepers.”

“Dad goes out and he is telling his story over and over and over and the argument that the film makes or suggests, it suggests that telling our story over and over is a path to healing,” said Phil.

“There is no cure for catastrophic personal loss, there is none. Your life will never be the same again, but what I learned was just because your life will never be the same again it does not follow that it’s going to be terrible every day. It’s going to be different,” Dick said.

The film documenting the journey through grief to healing resonated at the Austin Film Festival, and Phil walked away as both the audience and industry favorite.

“I do think it is a film that is going to meaningfully impact people in a positive way and that’s all I can hope for,” said Phil.

A book written in Roanoke leads to a tour across America and now a film favorite in Austin.

Click here if you would like to learn more about Carol Wall’s book.


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