Amy Scott celebrates maverick director Hal Ashby.
US Documentary Competition
Sundance Program Description:
Although Hal Ashby directed a remarkable string of acclaimed, widely admired classics throughout the 1970s – HAROLD AND MAUDE, THE LAST DETAIL, SHAMPOO, BEING THERE – he’s often overlooked amid the crowd of luminaries from his generation.
Amy Scott’s exuberant portrait – drawn from rare archival materials, interviews, personal letters, and audio recordings – explores that curious oversight, revealing a passionate, obsessive artist. Having hitchhiked to LA, Ashby eventually landed in the editing room, where a chance encounter with Norman Jewison brought his big break (and a lifelong friendship). Ashby’s subsequent films were guided by compassion and deep engagement with social justice, class, and race.
Ashby was a Hollywood director who constantly clashed with Hollywood. His uncompromising nature pitted him against studio meddling, particularly in the 1980s, when a string of flops tarnished his legacy, but Scott conjures the special quality Ashby’s films possess – an elusive blend of honesty, irreverence, humor, and humanity. Through HAL, you feel buoyed by Ashby’s love of people and of cinema, a little like walking on water.
Scott previously edited Sundance narrative alum ALL MY FRIENDS ARE FUNERAL SINGERS (2010). Like Hal Ashby, she makes her transition from editing to directing with this project.
Beebe most recently produced the DOC NYC title TONY CONRAD: COMPLETELY IN THE PRESENT. Lynch and Morrow are the founders of Shark Pig. This marks the first Sundance project for all three.
Past Sundance docs:
CALL ME LUCKY (2015, researcher)
Janssen previously worked with Beebe on TONY CONRAD as an associate producer.
Dawson is the author of the first Ashby biography, BEING HAL ASHBY: LIFE OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL, the editor of HAL ASHBY: INTERVIEWS, and provided commentary on the Criterion Collection’s release of HAROLD AND MAUDE. The former managing editor of Filmmaker magazine is now editor-in-chief of Talkhouse Film & TV. This marks his first Sundance credit.
Mudd is an attorney who previously associated produced Beebe’s directorial debut, FELIX AUSTRIA!. This is also his first Sundance credit.
Miller is senior vice president/general manager of Cartoon Network Studios and previously executive produced Sundance alum shorts SUMMER CAMP ISLAND (2017) and THANK YOU (2013). Beckerman is the head of film and TV at Hello! and Company, and this is his first Sundance credit. This is Beebe’s first feature producing credit.
Past Sundance docs:
HOLY HELL (2016)
Why You Should Watch:
For audiences already familiar with Ashby’s classic films, Scott’s cinephilic portrait serves as an affectionate reminder of the director’s unique gift for storytelling, character, and tone, while those who have never seen any of his work will be inspired to seek it out.
For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.