By Ray Pride


Life Itself, a new documentary about the life of Roger Ebert, will premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.  Directed by Steve James (Hoop DreamsThe Interrupters) and executive produced by Martin Scorsese, the film will also be viewable via private stream simultaneous with the world premiere screening exclusively to backers of the film’s Indiegogo campaign ( Supporters will also have an opportunity to participate in an interactive Q&A with the filmmakers, and other luminaries close to Roger, via livestream.

The Indiegogo campaign is currently live and running until December 20, with the goal of raising $150,000. To date, the campaign has over 600 individual backers.

The streaming experience, powered by VHX via a password-protected code, will be hosted at Immediately following the premiere, a livestream of the on-stage Q&A from Sundance’s MARC theatre will be broadcasted exclusively for backers of the Indiegogo campaign.

Steve James, Life Itself director, said: “Our goal with this film and especially with the crowdfunding campaign was to unite the global community of Roger Ebert fans. Playing Sundance is an honor, but not everyone can attend, though anyone, anywhere who backs our campaign above $25 is going to be part of this film’s big night. We believe this accessibility for all film fans is what Roger Ebert would have wanted.”

The Indiegogo campaign also includes special advance screenings in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Ebert’s hometown of Champaign-Urbana; signed memorabilia; consulting and workshops; and even a chance to have drinks and hear stories of Roger with the filmmakers at an iconic Chicago bar.

Life Itself will be Steve James’ sixth film to play the Sundance Film Festival, and his seventh made with Kartemquin Films. His first, Hoop Dreams, premiered at Sundance in 1994, winning the Audience Award for Documentary.

The film is based upon Ebert’s own memoir and recounts the surprising and entertaining life of the world-renowned film critic and social commentator – a story that’s by turns personal, wistful, funny, painful, and transcendent.

Steve James directs the film which is being produced by Zak Piper for Kartemquin Films and Garrett Basch for Film Rites, with Martin Scorsese, Michael W. Ferro Jr., Justine Nagan, Gordon Quinn, Kat White and Mark Mitten as executive producers.  It will be theatrically released in 2014, with CNN Films presenting and CNN holding first-window broadcast rights to the film.

The Sundance Film Festival takes place January 16-26, 2014.

LIFE ITSELF Sundance Film Festival 2014 Public Screening Schedule

Sunday, January 19, 5:15pm, MARC, Park City

Monday, January 20, 1pm, Redstone 2, Park City

Thursday, January 23, 9pm, Sundance Resort, Provo

Friday, January 24, 9am, Temple Theatre, Park City

Saturday, January 25, 9:15pm, Tower, Salt Lake City 

About Kartemquin Films

Kartemquin Films is a collaborative center for documentary media makers who seek to foster a more engaged and empowered society. With a noted tradition of nurturing emerging talent and acting as a leading voice for independent media, Kartemquin is building on over 47 years of being Chicago’s documentary powerhouse.

Kartemquin sparks democracy through documentary. Their films, such as The Interrupters, Hoop Dreams, andThe New Americans, are among the most acclaimed documentaries of all time, leaving a lasting impact on millions of viewers.

The organization has won every major critical and journalistic prize, including two Emmys, a Peabody, duPont-Columbia and Robert F. Kennedy journalism awards, Independent Spirit, IDA, PGA and DGA awards, and an Oscar nomination.

Kartemquin is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization.

About CNN Films

CNN Films brings documentaries beyond the small screen by developing strategic partnerships to leverage distribution opportunities at film festivals and in theaters.  Amy Entelis, senior vice president of talent and content development for CNN Worldwide, and Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide, oversee the acquisition strategy of documentaries for CNN Films.  Malhotra manages the day-to-day operations of CNN Films, and works directly with filmmakers to develop original projects.

CNN Worldwide is a portfolio of two dozen news and information services across cable, satellite, radio, wireless devices and the Internet in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. Domestically, CNN reaches more individuals on television, the web and mobile devices than any other cable TV news organization in the United States; internationally, CNN is the most widely distributed news channel reaching more than 271 million households abroad; and CNN Digital is a top network for online news, mobile news and social media.  Additionally, CNN Newsource is the world’s most extensively utilized news service partnering with hundreds of local and international news organizations around the world. CNN is division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company.



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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon