It is no overstatement to describe documentary-maker Alex Gibney as one of the pre-eminent filmmakers in America, a blotless 30-year career has seen him accumulate a back catalogue striking not only for the consistently outstanding quality of his work, but also for the boldness and incisiveness of his subject matter. Highlights include “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room,” “Taxi to the Dark Side” (which won him an Oscar) and “Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson,” and we await his upcoming “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks” and his forthcoming documentary on legendary Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, “Finding Fela!” Thus, it is with no little excitement that we greet the announcement of his next subject, one Frank Sinatra.
The newly formed Alcon Television Group, the television division of Alcon Entertainment, and Frank Sinatra Enterprises are collaborating to produce an as yet untitled documentary about the life and music of Frank Sinatra, to premiere on HBO with Gibney directing. Alcon President Sharon Hall said: “Alex’s vision for this unique documentary is an exciting one, taking viewers into the singular and extraordinary world created by one of the greatest entertainers the world has ever known.”
The prospect is certainly an intriguing one; Sinatra is a huge figure, a colossus of American entertainment, but Gibney has never been shy about being critical when here has to, so we wouldn’t expect a fawning syrup-fest. The participation of Frank Sinatra Enterprises is another major factor. Clearly, Alcon has bought into the idea of Gibney as a filmmaker, and you would hope that FSE do the same and just let him get on with it, rather than insisting on some sanitized and sterile version of the great man. Their participation will likely prove a major boon, as FSE own the rights to every Sinatra home-movie, audio recording and scrap of footage ever recorded, an archive widely considered to be one of the all-time great treasure troves of popular culture.
With four hours of prime HBO mini-series to play with, Alcon has promised an “up close and personal examination of Sinatra, his life, his music and the legendary career” and “Never before seen footage, including industry and home movies, as well as private and professional performances.” No word on exactly when it’ll happen yet, but Gibney is renowned as a speedy worker so it probably won’t be too long. With a sharp-as-tacks director, full participation of the Sinatra estate, HBO imprimatur and a clearly into-it Alcon President, this one could very well turn out to be an absolute belter. Can’t. Wait.