CNN Films has decided to use the Sundance Film Festival to announce its intentions to further muscle into the documentary film game with three new big projects. And they’ve got some heavy-hitting names involved.
First, the company has acquired U.S. broadcast rights to a documentary about author and film critic Roger Ebert based on his memoir “Life Itself.” “Hoop Dreams” helmer Steve James is directing the film, with Martin Scorsese and Steve Zaillian aboard as executive producers. Kartemquin Films and Film Rites are producing, and the finished film will be released theatrically before it airs on CNN in 2014.
Also on the docket is a project from Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein (“Fightville”), who will direct a documentary about the days after 9/11 constructed solely from still photography. It is scheduled to air on CNN this year, as is an untitled project from “Page One: Inside the New York Times” filmmaker Andrew Rossi that looks hard at the transformation taking place in higher education.
“CNN is proud to announce these production agreements at this festival which has done so much to support independent storytelling,” said CNN Worldwide managing editor Mark Whitaker at a reception Friday night (CNN Films is a unit of CNN Worldwide). “Our aim at CNN Films is to showcase the work of exceptional documentary filmmakers and to build conversations around the issues they raise across our global platforms.”
CNN Films acquired “Girl Rising,” a documentary about nine girls around the world struggling to get an education, in Spring 2012. The company is unveiling a sneak peek of the film Monday, Jan. 21, at Sundance, ahead of its March theatrical release and June broadcast premiere on CNN.