Werner Herzog, D.A. Pennebaker, Chris Hegedus, Spike Lee projects to be showcased
The 2016 edition of the Sundance Film Festival gets underway later today with the traditional opening day news conference featuring Sundance Founder Robert Redford, Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam and Festival Director John Cooper.
The news conference begins at 1pm MT [noon PT; 3p ET] Click on the window below at that time to watch a live stream.
The festival begins in earnest Thursday evening with several screenings, including two documentaries:
>Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You directed by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady.
"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," the Sundance programming team wrote in the festival catalogue. "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."
Lear is expected to attend the festival. CNN has booked him for a live interview on Saturday.
The second documentary premiering Thursday night is:
>Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang, directed by Kevin Macdonald, whose credits include the narrative film The Last King of Scotland.
"Cai Guo-Qiang is an electrifying artist who creates massive drawings from fireworks, meant to unite Eastern philosophy and contemporary social issues," programmers noted in the catalogue. "With unfettered access, filmmaker Kevin Macdonald combines the artist’s intimate reflections with interviews from friends, family, and members of the art world. Vérité footage of Cai's artistic process culminates in his final realization of a lifelong pursuit: Sky Ladder, a visionary, explosive event that he pulls off in his hometown in China after 20 years of failed attempts."
Brief descriptions of all of the documentaries in competition can be found here.
Several giants of cinema will unveil films out of competition, in the Premieres section:
>Michael Jackson's Journey From Motown to Off the Wall, directed by Spike Lee, premieres Sunday, January 24.The film about the King of Pop's transition from Jackson 5 phenom to solo artist marks Lee's second collaboration with the Jackson estate; he directed the 2012 documentary Bad 25, which marked the 25th anniversary of MJ's Bad album.
Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker will premiere their latest documentary, Unlocking the Cage, which focuses on animal rights attorney Steven Wise and his campaign "to transform an animal from a thing with no rights to a person with legal protections."
Werner Herzog unveils LO AND BEHOLD, Reveries of the Connected World, a profound exploration of the promise and peril of the Internet. His film includes interviews with computer scientists who created the web, scholars who study its impact on human culture, a legendary hacker and members of a family of a girl who died in accident, who were mocked and harassed by Internet trolls.
Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, the famed duo behind The Eyes of Tammy Faye, train their eyes on late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe in the documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures.
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Liz Garbus, who premiered What Happened, Miss Simone? to acclaim at Sundance last January, returns to the festival with Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper, in which, the festival says, "Gloria Vanderbilt and her son Anderson Cooper each tell the story of their past and present, their loves and losses."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.