The Mystery of Mazo de La Roche is a superb NFB documentary airing Friday June 15th at 10 PM and Saturday the 16th at 3 AM and 7 PM on Bravo! Written and directed by Maya Gallus, it tells the story or what can be put together as the story of the author of the Jalna series and Canada's earliest bestselling writer. This documentary works at so many levels, including visual and technical, you will want to watch it more than once to really appreciate everything.
Maya Gallus blends archival footage of the Jalna movie and TV adaptation with reenactments starring Severn Thompson as Mazo de la Roche. Gallus also seamlessly inserts interviews with relatives and literary biographers and also moves invisibly from reenactment to clearly staged moments.
What the viewer gets in the end is that Mazo de la Roche was so interested in both keeping her privacy and inventing herself that no one quite knows who she really was or what her relationship with her cousin, adopted sister, and lifelong companion Caroline Clement was.
The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche does not answer any question in full. The most important being why is this most prolific and bestselling author so forgotten now? Is it because the later Jalna novels were no more than romance novels? Is it because the mystery de la Roche created around herself made it impossible to write a PhD thesis on her and she consequently was ignored by Can Lit gurus?
Though it is not at all its purpose, I do wish this excellent NFB documentary at at least tried to answer why Mazo de la Roche is so well forgotten.
Whether you are one of few still familiar with Jalna and the Whiteoaks, interested in Canadian literature, enjoy a good documentary, appreciate a well-made film, The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche is a must see, again.