michael jacksonThe next Sundance doc profile also takes on a cultural icon: MICHAEL JACKSON’S JOURNEY FROM MOTOWN TO OFF THE WALL, Spike Lee’s exploration of the transformation of the child star to the King of Pop.

Festival Section:
Documentary Premieres

Sundance Program Description:

One morning, a television set broke down in a living room in Gary, Indiana, leaving a large family of children with nothing to do – so they started singing. Soon the family was singing at talent shows and winning trophies. Their first four recorded songs would top the charts, and launch the career of one of the greatest entertainers the world has ever known.

Director Spike Lee assembles a wealth of archival footage, interviews with contemporary talents and family members, and Michael’s own words and image to create this insightful chronicle of the star’s early rise to fame. An in-depth look at a chapter of his career that is rarely examined, MICHAEL JACKSON’S JOURNEY FROM MOTOWN TO OFF THE WALL allows audiences to travel with Michael as he gets his start at Motown, strikes a new path with CBS records, and forges a relationship with legendary producer Quincy Jones. An illuminated portrait emerges of how an earnest, passionate, hard-working boy would become the “King of Pop.”

Some Background:
Director/Producer: Spike Lee
The Oscar, Emmy, Gotham, Independent Spirit, Berlin, Venice, and Cannes award-winning director has previously screened his feature doc PASSING STRANGE (2009) and fiction film RED HOOK SUMMER (2012) at the festival. Other past Sundance credits include producing or executive producing CRONIES (2015), PARIAH (2011), GOOD FENCES (2003), 3 AM (2011), LOVE AND BASKETBALL (2000), and NEW JERSEY DRIVE (1995). This is the second feature doc that Lee has made about Jackson’s legacy, following the Venice award winner BAD 25.

Producers: John Branca and John McClain; Co-Producer: Karen Langford
Entertainment attorney Branca is the chairman of the Michael Jackson Company and serves as co-executor of Jackson’s estate. Notably, Branca secured the financing for the pioneering “Thriller” music video and executive produced Jackson-focused docs and concert films THIS IS IT, BAD 25, and MICHAEL JACKSON LIVE AT WEMBLEY 7.16.1988. Jackson family friend and music executive McClain is also co-executor of Jackson’s estate, and carries the same executive producer credits as Branca. Langford has served as the estate archivist and was a longtime friend of Jackson.

Editors: Ryan Denmark and Barry Alexander Brown
This marks Denmark’s first Park City credit. He has previously worked on Lee’s CHI-RAQ, OLDBOY, INSIDE MAN, and SHE HATE ME, as well as Richard Press’ BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK.

Brown is a Sundance alum as the editor of Lee’s PASSING STRANGE and as the director of the music doc WHO’S TOMMY: THE AMAZING JOURNEY (1994). He also cut previous Lee titles including SCHOOL DAZE, DO THE RIGHT THING, MALCOLM X, CROOKLYN, HE GOT GAME, SUMMER OF SAM, SHE HATE ME, INSIDE MAN, BAD 25, and OLDBOY, and was nominated for the Academy Award for the documentary THE WAR AT HOME.

Why You Should Watch:
In addition to providing a heartfelt appreciation of the late superstar and his breakthrough album, Lee unearths remarkable archival footage and provides access to insiders who are able to offer even Jackson’s most ardent fans with new, insightful observations about this crucial, transformative time in the performer’s career.

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

Presently, the film does not have a website, Facebook page, or trailer, but here’s an official clip. Should this change before the festival kicks off, I’ll update that information here.

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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