Steve James’ touching tribute to long-time film critic and social media champion Roger Ebert, entitled “Life Itself,” has been selected to open this year’s 6th Annual Hamptons International Film Festival SummerDocs Series on June 21. “Keep On Keepin On,” about the relationship between jazz musician Clark Terry and a young pianist, will screen on June 25.
Having opened to an emotional audience and rave reviews at Sundance, “Life Itself” chronicles the events of Ebert’s life, ranging from his romances and friendship with Gene Siskel to his fight with cancer, and how he used the internet to maintain his voice even after his illness took it away. The film has been picked up for distribution by Magnolia Pictures for a July 4th theatrical release and CNN exclusive broadcast. James, who began working with Ebert before he became too weak to contribute, also directed the acclaimed “Hoop Dreams,” a film Ebert championed, suggesting the documentary get an unprecedented Best Picture nomination.
“Keep On Keepin On” is directed by Australian filmmaker Al Hicks and was partially funded on Kickstarter. It introduces the unlikely friendship of Clark Terry, the former jazz star who mentored Miles Davis and performed with the likes of Duke Ellington, and a 23-year old blind pianist named Justin Kauflin. The documentary premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this spring, at which it won the Best New Documentary Director and Documentary Audience Awards. RADiUS-TWC will be releasing the film.
Hicks will be in attendance for a conversation at the festival, as will be Ebert’s wife Chaz. The conversations will again be hosted by Alec Baldwin. In its 6 year history, HIFF SummerDocs has screened the Oscar Best Documentary winner 5 times. “Life Itself” will kick off the festival on June 21, and the 22nd Annual Hamptons International Film Festival will take place October 9-13.