Tom Wolfe’s latest novel, Back to Blood, takes place in Miami. It won’t be out until later in the month, but a new documentary about the years Wolfe spent here researching the book premieres Tuesday, October 9 at O Cinema in Wynwood.
The novel deals with ethnic relations and ambition in the city and focuses on how the various immigrants get along with each other and adapt to American society.
Wolfe may be most well known by the general public for wearing white suits. But his writing is characterized by his intensive, hands-on research. He visited Miami several times over the course of six years to get background information for his latest book.
Oscar Corral is the director of the documentary, Tom Wolfe Gets Back to Blood. He spent four years filming with Wolfe. He’s also a former Miami Herald staffer.
Corral recently sat down with us to talk about the film, getting to know the writer and how Miami is portrayed in the book.
He says Wolfe wanted to focus on Miami because he’s fascinated by the impact of immigration on the country.
“He saw Miami as the immigrant capital of not just the United States but the world, and in fact, the United Nations has labeled it so,” said Corral. “So it is the immigrant capital of the world in terms of the percentage of people that live here that were born in another country, so naturally this is the best place for Tom to set that kind of book .”
Corral says he came to know Wolfe when he volunteered to help him in 2008. He drove the author around, set up interviews and served as a translator.
“He wanted his book to ring true, and him not being a Miami native, he wanted to make sure that the city he was writing about reflected the real city, and so he made several trips down here over the years to just get his information and to meet people,” said Corral.
It was during this time that Corral says he first thought that others might be interested in seeing Wolfe’s unique way of interviewing and engaging people. He was also intrigued by the author’s elusive nature.
“I think he wears the white suit as a shield in some ways,” said Corral. “The white suit, he once said, ‘saves him from having to have a personality.' So I wanted to get inside the white suit, if you will, to fill out that suit. Who is the man behind the suit? That’s what this film is about. Who is the journalist, the man, the writer that fills in that white suit that has been a shield for so long?”
So how is Miami ultimately portrayed in the novel?
“It’s a place where some foolish things are done, and I think the heat tends to make people a little crazy sometimes,” said Corral. “Tom captured that, and he did it by spending time here talking to people who live here and know this place.”
Corral’s documentary will have an exclusive South Florida engagement at O Cinema from October 11-14. It will also be the first film shown at O Cinema’s newly launched Miami Shores location with two screenings on October 14.
Wolfe’s novel will be released on October 23.
Watch the trailer of the film below: