2016 Sundance Docs in Focus: GLEASON

gleasonMy focus on 2016 Sundance nonfiction continues: GLEASON, Clay Tweel’s portrait of a former professional athlete’s adaptation to a debilitating disease.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

At the age of 34, former New Orleans Saints defensive back Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS and given a life expectancy of two to five years. Weeks later, Gleason found out his wife, Michel, was expecting their first child. A video journal that began as a gift for his unborn son expands to chronicle Steve’s determination to get his relationships in order, build a foundation to provide other ALS patients with purpose, and adapt to his declining physical condition – utilizing medical technologies that offer the means to live as fully as possible.

GLEASON is not only about Steve’s resilience but also the complications of love between fathers and sons, and husbands and wives, in the face of a devastating illness. The film is bolstered by its subject’s unwavering candor and surprising humor. Told through the lens of an NFL icon, the film grapples with the nature of heroism as Steve recasts his legacy into something quite antithetical to – but no less inspirational than – his on-field shows of strength and dominance.

Some Background:
Director: Clay Tweel
This marks Tweel’s third film at Sundance following last year’s FINDERS KEEPERS, which he also directed/edited, and the narrative short EXCUSE ME (2011), which he produced, edited, and shot.

Producers: Seth Gordon, Kimi Culp, Kevin Lake; Co-Producer: Shannon E Riggs
Gordon is best known as the director of THE KING OF KONG, HORRIBLE BOSSES, and IDENTITY THIEF. His Sundance feature producing credits include FINDERS KEEPERS, MITT (2014), and NEW YORK DOLL (2005).

Culp’s background is as a producer, story developer, and talent booker for NBC, ABC, and OWN. She is also a strategic partner at creative consultants Long Story Media, whose clients include the Gates Foundation. This marks her first documentary feature credit.

Lake is a creative strategist focused on branded entertainment. He previously worked in feature development at Mel Gibson’s Icon Productions, as well as at production companies Rabbit and Uncharted Media.

Riggs is an independent producer with a background in both indie and studio productions. She has previously participated in the Sundance Institute’s Women Filmmakers Initiatives Finance Intensive for one of her narrative projects.

Executive Producers: Mary Rohlich, Scott Fujita, Tom Lavia, and Thomas McEachin
Rohlich is a development executive for Gordon’s production company. She has producing credits on Sundance alums FINDERS KEEPERS and EXCUSE ME, as well as Gordon’s other projects.

Fujita is a former NFL linebacker and ex-teammate of Gleason’s. He is on the Board of Directors for Team Gleason, and has participated in their activities for pALS (people with ALS).

McEachin is a New Orleans-based attorney and member of the Board of Directors for Team Gleason.

Editor: Clay Tweel, Co-Editor: Brian Palmer
Tweel’s other editorial credits include the Academy Award-winning UNDEFEATED, SXSW-winner PRINT THE LEGEND, and the critically-acclaimed THE KING OF KONG; while co-editor Palmer also contributed to FINDERS KEEPERS and PRINT THE LEGEND.

Why You Should Watch:
In the face of a devastating diagnosis, Gleason turns the camera on himself to provide his unborn son a sense of the father he might otherwise never know. These heartfelt recordings grow more evocative, demonstrating tenderness, vulnerability, and paternal pride as the viewer witnesses the toll ALS takes, even as he charges ahead with inspirational optimism to make a difference for himself and other pALS.

More Info:
Sundance’s Meet the Artists

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the link in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2016 Twitter list.


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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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