2020 Sundance Docs in Focus: MAX RICHTER’S SLEEP

MAX RICHTER’S SLEEP | Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Rahi Rezvani

Natalie Johns immerses the viewer in the making of an eight-hour piece to be experienced during sleep.

Festival Section:
Special Events

Sundance Program Description:

Over the past two decades, Max Richter has emerged as one of the most influential composers of his generation. His inclusive approach connects classical tradition with minimalist electronica, delivering an immersive experience to a wider audience. In 2015, he released Sleep, an eight-hour opus that combines piano and strings with subtle electronic touches and vocals. Richter’s mesmerizing lullaby is intended to be absorbed throughout the night.

Award-winning filmmaker Natalie Johns follows the process of mounting the most ambitious live performance of Sleep to date: an open-air concert in Los Angeles’s Grand Park, where over 500 people will experience the composer’s work in unison. The result is a striking visual portrait that immerses us within the life of Richter and his creative partner, Yulia Mahr. Performing Sleep requires unprecedented endurance from its musicians; experiencing it requires vulnerability, as audience members drift in and out of consciousness amongst hundreds of others.

Some Background:


  • Natalie Johns

    Johns is an Emmy-nominated South African filmmaker based in Los Angeles whose work typically focuses on music and art. She debuted this project last November at IDFA.


  • Julie Jakobek

    Jakobek is a founder and managing director of production company JA Films, which focuses on music projects.

  • Yulia Mahr

    Mahr is a filmmaker, curator, and creative director of Studio Richter Mahr, with longtime creative partner Max Richter. She executive produced the Sleep opus.

  • Oualid Mouaness

    Tricycle Logic’s Mouaness produced Johns’ previous documentary feature, I AM THALENTE. He participated in the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Intensive and Screenwriters Lab, and received support from the Feature Film Program for his directorial debut, 1982, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. Mouaness also line produced Sundance doc feature RIZE (2005).

  • Stefan Demetriou

    Demetriou is managing director, Globe Productions, Universal Music UK’s film, TV, and content division.

Executive Producers:

  • Clemens Trautmann

    Dr Trautmann is president of German classical music record label Deutsche Grammaphon, part of Universal Music Group, through which Max Richter releases his albums.

  • David Joseph

    Joseph is chairman/CEO of Universal Music UK and Ireland. He previously executive produced the Oscar-winning doc feature AMY.

  • Dickon Stainer

    Strainer is president/CEO of Universal Classics and Jazz, and also oversees Deutsche Grammophon and the Decca Label Group. He previously executive produced Ron Howard’s doc PAVAROTTI.

  • Marc Robinson

    Robinson is president, Globe Productions.


  • Dom Whitworth

    This is Whitworth’s first Sundance credit.

Why You Should Watch:
Johns draws the audience in, allowing them to experience Sleep through audience members at performances around the world, giving space for contemplation of the space between consciousness and unconsciousness as Max Richter’s details the creative process to develop his grand lullaby. During the festival, Richter also will perform a special 90-minute concert version of Sleep, followed by a panel.

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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