What has been dubbed a definitive documentary on the man’s life, the upcoming Richard Pryor feature documentary, directed by Marina Zenovich (known mostly for directing the multiple award-winning 2008 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired), will make its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival this month – on Tuesday, April 23rd.
Director Marina Zenovich was given access to estate photos and other materials, and many of Pryor’s friends and family opened up for the project, which will focus on Pryor’s transformation from successful but mild stand-up comedian to successful but dangerous social critic.
The turning point happens in Las Vegas, where Pryor no longer feels comfortable in his own skin, for taking the safe route of punch-line comedy while leaving his past buried. “He just really got to see what the world was about,” says Jennifer Lee Pryor. “He was making good money. It was a case of learning from an answered prayer: ‘I got what I wanted. But what is it? Who am I?'” Pryor answered that last question with brutal honesty in his new brand of no holds barred stage humor. It rocketed him to superstardom, before the fire and fall. At that point, as therapy for his suicide attempt, he began writing a journal, which he kept private. The journal was used in the documentary, for the first time ever. “I think it allows insight,” his widow says, without offering specifics, for now. “I think it’s definitely meant to show publicly. There’s private stuff in there. But Richard was a very public person.”
All interesting, I thought – especially the part about his private journal, which he kept as therapy for his suicide attempt, now being made public.
So this sounds like it should give us much more insight into the man and his life, than any previous work, in part because of the cooperation of the Pryor estate giving the award-winning director of a film about another controversial public figure, what sounds like unprecedented access to Pryor’s life.
The completed film, which will be broadcast on Showtime as part of a new documentary series showcase titled Closeup, which will give measured and complex looks at the lives of several notable public figures, with Richard Pryor being among the first to be “provocatively studied,” as Showtime describes it.
The film also includes interviews with Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams, Mel Brooks, Quincy Jones, Lily Tomlin, Jesse Jackson and more.
No trailer yet, but some footage has surfaced, and is embedded below: