2019 Sundance Docs in Focus: HALSTON

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Berry Berenson Perkins

Frédéric Tcheng explores the life and legacy of America’s first celebrity designer.

Festival Section:
Documentary Premieres

Sundance Program Description:

Fashion designer Halston combined talent, notoriety, and sheer fabulousness to become a legend. From humble beginnings in Des Moines, Iowa, his first brush with fame came when he designed Jackie Onassis’s famous pink pillbox hat. Whether he was popularizing hot pants, creating elegant but comfortable women’s wear, launching a perfume line, traveling with a gaggle of models to China, or having hedonistic fun with Liza Minnelli at Studio 54, Halston built a reputation and an empire – and was responsible for many iconic moments in American fashion and culture in the ’70s and ’80s.

HALSTON tells the story of a complicated man – in both his craft and his business decisions – from the mouths of those who knew the man best. Frédéric Tcheng, a great documentarian of fashion luminaries like Valentino, Diana Vreeland, and Raf Simons, takes an unconventional approach to the bio-doc by creating a narrative (starring Tavi Gevinson, a fashion icon of a different generation) through which to frame the story of this enigmatic designer, which allows Tcheng to delve deeper into this comprehensive exploration of the designer’s rise, fall, and enduring influence.

Some Background:

  • Frédéric Tcheng

    Tcheng’s third documentary as director is his first at Sundance. Both of his previous films, DIOR AND I and DIANA VREELAND: THE EYE HAS TO TRAVEL – as well as VALENTINO: THE LAST EMPEROR, which he co-produced and co-edited – also focused on the fashion world.


  • Roland Ballester

    This marks Ballester’s first Sundance project. He has a background in business development, intellectual property, and branding, with a focus on the US Hispanic market.

  • Stephanie Levy

    Levy also makes her Sundance debut. She most recently executive produced AN HONEST LIAR.

  • Paul Dallas

    This is the first Sundance credit for Dallas, a film programmer and journalist who has written for Artforum, Interview, Film Comment, Filmmaker Magazine, and IndieWire, among other outlets.


  • Michael Prall

    Prall also produced fellow 2019 Sundance title THE SOUND OF SILENCE, in the US Dramatic Competition. He previously produced Sundance fiction short alum ROLLING ON THE FLOOR LAUGHING.

Consulting Producer:

  • Jennifer Grausman

    The Emmy-nominated Grausman co-produced Sundance fiction alumni title 3 BACKYARDS. Her most recent project was the Oscar shortlisted doc feature ART AND CRAFT, which she directed and produced.

Executive Producers:

  • CNN Films’ Amy Entelis and Courtney Sexton
    Combined recent past Sundance docs:

    RBG (2018)

    The Emmy-winning Entelis, CNN’s EVP for talent and content development, and Sexton, VP for CNN Films, are also executive producers of fellow 2019 Sundance title APOLLO 11, in the US Documentary Competition.

  • Anna Godas
    Past Sundance docs:

    KUSAMA – INFINITY (2018)

    Godas also executive produced fellow 2019 Sundance title MAIDEN, in the Spotlight section. She is the founder and CEO of London-based sales company and distributor Dogwoof.

  • Oli Harbottle

    Harbottle is the head of distribution and acquisitions at Dogwoof and also executive produced MAIDEN.

  • Douglas Schwalbe

    Schwalbe is an industry veteran, and currently SVP of co-productions for DreamWorks Animation.

  • Lawrence Benenson and Elyse Benenson

    The Benensons are philanthropists who support the arts, culture, and education. Lawrence is a principal of his family’s real estate investment and development company, the Benenson Capital Company, while Elyse is an artist and writer. Lawrence most recently executive produced art doc EVA HESSE, but this marks the first Sundance credit for both.

  • Ian Sharp and Rebecca Joerin-Sharp
    Past Sundance docs:


    The Sharps produce through their boutique production and finance company, Sharp House.

  • Emma Dutton
    Past Sundance docs:


    Former military office-turned-producer co-founded Sharp House with the Sharps.

  • Lesley Frowick

    Frowick is Halston’s niece and appears in the film. She is the author of HALSTON: INVENTING AMERICAN FASHION and has been a guest curator of museums exhibitions of his work.

  • Louis A Martarano

    This is Martarano’s first project as executive producer. He has a background in finance, real estate, and social enterprise, with a focus on education.


  • Èlia Gasull Balada
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE KING (2018)

Consulting Editor:

  • Mark Becker
    Past Sundance docs:

    ROMANTICO (2005)

Why You Should Watch:
Tcheng tells Halston’s story through a rich archive that brings the fashion icon back to life, introducing his extravagant NYC beau monde to new audiences. A surprising cautionary story emerges of a self-made artist who developed a wildly successful brand during a time of radical change in society, only to face the consequences of the ’80s age of greed.

More Info:

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


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

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