norman learThis year’s Day One US doc feature brings us past the Documentary Premieres’ halfway point: NORMAN LEAR: JUST ANOTHER VERSION OF YOU, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing’s profile of one of the masters of the television sitcom form.

Festival Section:
Documentary Premieres

Sundance Program Description:

Arguably the most influential creator, writer, and producer in the history of television, Norman Lear brought primetime into step with the times. Using comedy and indelible characters, his legendary 1970s shows such as ALL IN THE FAMILY, MAUDE, GOOD TIMES, and THE JEFFERSONS boldly cracked open dialogue and shifted the national consciousness, injecting enlightened humanism into sociopolitical debates on race, class, creed, and feminism.

NORMAN LEAR: JUST ANOTHER VERSION OF YOU is the definitive chronicle of Mr Lear’s life, work, and achievements, but it is so much more than an arm’s-length, past-tense biopic; at 93, Mr Lear is as vital and engaged as he ever was. Top-notch cinéma vérité documentarians Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing (JESUS CAMP, 12TH & DELAWARE, DETROPIA) seize the opportunity to fashion a dynamic portrait that matches the spirit of their subject. Breaking down the fourth wall to create an evocative collage where past and present intermingle, they reveal a psychologically rich man whose extraordinary contributions emerge from both his personal story and a dialogue with the world.

Some Background:
Directors: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
This is the third feature from Loki Films’ Ewing and Grady to screen at Sundance, following the Emmy award-winning and Oscar shortlisted DETROPIA (2012) and Peabody award-winning 12TH & DELAWARE (2010). They also received an Emmy nomination for their first doc, THE BOYS OF BARAKA, and an Oscar nomination for their second, JESUS CAMP.

Producers: Suzanne Hillinger and Brent Miller; Associate Producers: Alex Takats and Cara Mones
Hillinger’s past producing credits include work with Warrior Poets’ television series MORGAN SPURLOCK INSIDE MAN, while Miller is credited with the AXS TV docuseries TAIT STAGES. Takats previously worked on Loki Films’ HBO doc short THE EDUCATION OF MOHAMMAD HUSSEIN, while Mones’ credits include docs for Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions such as STEVE JOBS: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE.

Executive Producer: Michael Kantor
American Masters’ Kantor is also the executive producer of fellow Doc Premieres title MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE. Before coming to the PBS series, he was an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director whose work has appeared on PBS, HBO, and Bravo.

Editors: JD Marlow and Enat Sidi
Sidi’s has cut all of the Loki Films’ duo’s feature docs, and picked up both an editing award at Sundance and an Emmy for DETROPIA. Her other Sundance editing credits include last year’s US Documentary Grand Jury Prize winner THE WOLFPACK and WEB JUNKIE (2013).

Among his other credits, Marlow has previously cut episodes of MAKERS: WOMEN WHO MAKE AMERICA that were directed by Ewing and Grady, as well as their Nine for IX doc BRANDED for ESPN.

Why You Should Watch:
Grady and Ewing compose an artful portrait and appreciation of the incomparable Lear and the influence his work had on American culture throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. Present-day interviews with the writer/producer underscore the thoughtfulness with which he approached both his groundbreaking series and his activist work which followed.

More Info:

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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