2021 Sundance Docs in Focus: AILEY

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jack Mitchell


AILEY
Jamila Wignot presents a revealing, moving portrait of pioneering choreographer Alvin Ailey.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

Many know the name Alvin Ailey, but how many know the man? Ailey’s commitment to searching for truth in movement resulted in pioneering and enduring choreography that centers on African American experiences. Director Jamila Wignot’s resonant biography grants artful access to the elusive visionary who founded one of the world’s most renowned dance companies, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Wignot’s approach shares Ailey’s love of poetry. Where Ailey conveyed poetry through movement, Wignot crafts a visual poetry to evoke Ailey’s memories. Archival footage, layered with audio recordings, expounds on Ailey’s upbringing and establishes the language of his inspiration. Interviews with celebrated company dancers and distinguished choreographers give insight into Ailey’s process and legacy, while the current company of dancers work to bring a tribute to life. Wignot’s portrait is complex, capturing the talent and confidence of a man in the spotlight while also carving out space for Ailey’s vulnerability. Wignot moves between the interior and exterior, the inhale and exhale, to capture Ailey’s reverberating impact.

Some Background:

Director:
Jamila Wignot
First Sundance credit. Wignot previously participated in the Sundance Institute’s Catalyst Forum with this project. An Emmy winner, her previous work includes the feature doc TOWN HALL, as well as directing and/or producing several nonfiction projects for PBS (including American Experience, MAKERS, and FINDING YOUR ROOTS) and HBO (AXIOS).

Producer:
Lauren DeFilippo
First Sundance credit. Insignia Films. DeFilippo has previously produced episodes of PBS’s American Experience, directed/produced several short docs, and most recently made her doc feature directorial debut with RED HEAVEN (SXSW, DOC NYC).

Executive Producers:
Stephen Ives
First Sundance credit. Founder, Insignia Films. Ives is best known for his PBS series THE WEST, and won an Emmy for producing Ken Burns’ THE CIVIL WAR. He has produced numerous projects for HBO and for PBS’s American Experience.

Amanda Pollak
First Sundance credit. Partner, Insignia Films. The Emmy-winning Pollak has produced and/or directed several films for American Experience and other PBS programs, and most recently produced the feature doc INTO THE CANYON for NatGeo.

Michael Kantor
Past Sundance docs:
TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM (2019)
MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL (2019)
WORDS FROM A BEAR (2019)
MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE (2016)
NORMAN LEAR: JUST ANOTHER VERSION OF YOU (2016)

Executive producer, American Masters. Kantor also serves as as executive producer for fellow US Documentary Competition title Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It and Premieres title Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir. Before coming to the PBS series, for which he has received several Emmy nominations, Kantor was an Emmy and Peabody Award-winning director whose work appeared on PBS, HBO, and Bravo.

Judy Kinberg
First Sundance credit. Kinberg has an extensive background as a director/producer of dance-related documentary projects. She previously produced the Ailey project Hymn: Remembering Alvin Ailey, and serves as director of film projects at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Kinberg is the recipient of several Emmys for her work on PBS’s Great Performances: Dance in America series and for the American Masters film Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About.

Emily Blavatnik
Past Sundance docs:
THE PRICE OF EVERYTHING (2018)

Blavatnik is a philanthropist and the wife of British businessman Sir Leonard Blavatnik. She previously co-executive produced the dance documentary NY Export: Opus Jazz. The Blavatniks supported 2020 Sundance doc alum AGGIE via the Blavatnik Family Foundation, which provides funding for scientific research, higher education, and key cultural institutions, including MoMA, the Tate Modern, Carnegie Hall, the British Museum, the Royal Opera House, among many others.

Sally Jo Fifer
Past Sundance docs:
WORDS FROM A BEAR
ALWAYS IN SEASON (2019)
BEDLAM (2019)
ONE CHILD NATION (2019)
MINDING THE GAP (2018)
THE FORCE (2017)
MOTHERLAND (2017)
QUEST (2017)

President/CEO, ITVS. Fifer is also executive producer of fellow 2021 US Documentary Competition title TRY HARDER! and Premieres series PHILLY DA. She has received multiple Emmys for the ITVS-produced PBS series Independent Lens.

Tony Hsieh
Co-founder, Zappos. Hsieh also has executive producer credits on fellow 2021 US Documentary Competition titles AT THE READY, HOMEROOM, REBEL HEARTS, TRY HARDER!, and USERS, as well as Premieres title BRING YOUR OWN BRIGADE. The Internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist, who passed away in late November, was a backer of Bryn Mooser’s XTR.

Roberto Grande
Grande also executive produced AT THE READY, HOMEROOM, REBEL HEARTS, TRY HARDER!, and USERS. The investor and entrepreneur managed Tony Hsieh’s partnership with XTR.

Mimi Pham
Pham also executive produced AT THE READY, HOMEROOM, REBEL HEARTS, TRY HARDER!, and USERS. She recently co-executive produced 76 DAYS (Toronto, DOC NYC).

Bryn Mooser
Past Sundance docs:
BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS (2020)
FEELS GOOD MAN (2020)
THE FIGHT (2020)
MUCHO MUCHO AMOR (2020)
US KIDS (2020)
THE BRINK (2019)
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF MY MOTHER (2019)
ON HER SHOULDERS (2018)

Founder/CEO, XTR. Mooser also executive produced AT THE READY, REBEL HEARTS, BRING YOUR OWN BRIGADE, TRY HARDER!, USERS, and the 2021 Next fiction title THE BLAZING WORLD, as well as co-executive produced HOMEROOM. The Oscar nominee and Emmy winner previously co-founded RYOT.

Kathryn Everett
Past Sundance docs:
BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS
FEELS GOOD MAN
THE FIGHT
MUCHO MUCHO AMOR

Head of film, XTR. Everett is also an executive producer of AT THE READY, BRING YOUR OWN BRIGADE, TRY HARDER!, and USERS, and co-executive producer of HOMEROOM.

Associate Producer:
Matt Gottesfeld
First Sundance credit. Insignia Films.

More Info:
Meet the Artist
Website

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

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