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‘Oliver Sacks: His Own Life’ Trailer: The Legendary Thinker Gets the Documentary Treatment

Exclusive: Watch the trailer for a new film that chronicle's Sacks' advents in neurology, as well as his personal battles with addiction and sexuality.

Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks

Bill Hayes

Oliver Sacks lived a lot of life, putting primacy on the brain throughout his career as a neurologist as the most incredible thing in the universe. But during that life, which ended in 2015, he also battled drug addiction, cancer, homophobia, and a medical establishment that wouldn’t take him seriously for decades. His towering achievements and personal struggles are chronicled in the new documentary “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life,” directed by Ric Burns and coming later this summer. IndieWire shares the exclusive first trailer below.

Sacks, perhaps best known for his literary works “Awakenings” and “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat,” was an intrepid explorer of cognitive worlds who helped us redefine how the brain and mind work. The film features exclusive interviews conducted with Sacks just weeks after his terminal diagnosis, leading up to his death, along with nearly two dozen testimonials from family, colleagues, patients, and close friends, including Jonathan Miller, Robert Silvers, Temple Grandin, Christof Koch, Robert Krulwich, Lawrence Weschler, Roberto Calasso, Paul Theroux, Bill Hayes, Kate Edgar, and Atul Gawande, among others. The film also draws on access to the extensive archives of the Oliver Sacks Foundation.

Director Ric Burns has long collaborated with his brother, storied nonfiction filmmaker Ken Burns, as well as making his own films. “His Own Life” premiered at the 2019 Telluride Film Festival, where it met raves in Colorado before heading off to the New York, Hamptons, and Glasgow film festivals, as well as AFI FEST.

Variety’s Owen Gleiberman wrote “that the movie, like Sacks himself, refuses to pin its subject down to anything as earthly as a diagnosis, because that would reduce him,” calling it “a portrait at once tender and thrilling, a movie that presents us with a man who led an eccentrically defiant, at times reckless existence that was the furthest thing from cunningly planned.”

Ric Burns has also directed films and specials on Andy Warhol, Ansel Adams, the Mayflower pilgrims, and more.

A Zeitgeist Films release in association with Kino Lorber, “Oliver Sacks: His Own Life” will open theatrically including at Film Forum, and on virtual cinema platform Kino Marquee, nationwide late summer and fall 2020. The documentary is a Vulcan Productions, Steeplechase Films, American Masters Pictures, Motto Pictures, Passion Pictures, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, Sandbox Films, and Independent Television Service, Inc. production, in association with Artemis Rising Foundation, ARTE, WDR, and Arthur Altschul Jr Films

Oliver Sacks

By Matt Frost/Frost Foundry

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