West Long Branch, N.J. – Director Hannah Jayanti brings an advance screening of her film The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations, a documentary that traces the friendship between author Norton Juster and Pulitzer Prize-winning artist Jules Feiffer to Monmouth University’sPollak Theatre on Monday, November 17 at 7:30 p.m. The film is free and open to the public. There will be a Q&A with Jayanti immediately following the screening.

The year was 1961 when Juster and Feiffer, two young unknown artists with no intention of writing a children’s book, came together in a rundown duplex in Brooklyn Heights to create what has been called the “Alice in Wonderland of our time.” Formally trained as an architect, Juster, now in his 80s, describes himself in the film as an “accidental writer.” Longtime friend Eric Carle describes Juster as an incorrigible punster who “is so interested in words and word play, he had to put this down.” Also in his 80s, Feiffer, who was working as a cartoonist at the Village Voice, explains that he had his sights set on overthrowing the government through his political and societal satire. Neither of them expected “the little story about a kid who didn’t like to go to school” to be a defining moment in their lives and in the lives of generations of readers.    

Conceived in Brooklyn during the Cold War in the 1950s, The Phantom Tollbooth is about much more than a bored little boy who travels through a tollbooth to the Lands Beyond to rescue princesses named Rhyme and Reason. The film illuminates the book’s deeper themes: the value of learning, the state of children’s literature, the creative journey and the importance of the written word. Warm, smart and quirky, the documentary is a loving look at a book that, more than 50 years after its publication, continues to inspire millions of readers. 

Hannah Jayanti is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker and editor who combines documentary, literature and video art to explore the world around her. She has worked on documentaries for the BBC and VIXPIX Films including The Secret Life of Uri Geller, Rolf Harris Paints His Dream, and The Agony and The Ecstasy of Phil Spector. The Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations is her directorial debut. She currently teaches video production in Brooklyn while working freelance for such clients as VICE, Random House, BRIC Arts Media, The Village Voice, All Rites Reserved, Film at Eleven, and Grand Central Publishing, among others. 

“On Screen: In Person” is pleased to present advanced screenings of this film in the mid-Atlantic region prior to its world premiere.The event is sponsored by Monmouth University’s Department of Communication and the Center for the Arts, and part of the “On Screen: In Person” film series, which brings six films and filmmakers to Monmouth University as part of a tour of the Eastern seaboard. “On Screen: In Person” is made possible by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts’ Regional Touring Program.


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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...