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David Bowie Getting ‘Immersive’ Doc Made from Thousands of Hours of Rare Footage

Not quite biopic, not quite documentary, Brett Morgen's tribute to Ziggy will present never-before-seen concert footage in a genre-defying experience.

Rock star David Bowie performs on stage at Wembley Stadium, London, July 13, 1985, during the Live Aid famine relief rock concert. (AP Photo/Joe Schaber)

David Bowie

AP

A top-secret David Bowie project will soon see the light of day from the mind of Brett Morgen, the director behind “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck,” “Jane,” and “The Kid Stays in the Picture.” Per Variety, the hybrid film is based on thousands of hours of rarely seen concert and performance footage of Ziggy, who died from liver cancer in January 2016.

Sources told the publication that Morgen has been working on the Bowie film — which has yet to announce a title — for the past four years. A source also said the film is “neither documentary nor biography, but an immersive cinematic experience built, in part, upon thousands of hours of never before seen material.” That’s not unlike Morgen’s 2015 “Montage of Heck,” which blended more traditional documentary elements with expressionistic collages and artwork to explore the life and times of Nirvana frontman Cobain.

Reportedly, the Bowie project will also feature live concert footage in a central role, and that Morgen is eyeing a release in IMAX. Along with directing, Morgen (who received a Best Documentary Feature Oscar nomination in 2000 for boxing doc “On the Ropes”) also does writing, producing, and editing duties.

The announcement could mean the film will wind up in play at the upcoming 2022 Sundance Film Festival, resuming an in-person event after going mostly virtual in January 2021. Morgen has been a Sundance mainstay, and a Park City bow in January would fall just after the six-year anniversary of Bowie’s death on January 10.

The untitled Bowie project also has a seasoned pedigree below the line, with Bowie’s longtime music producer Tony Visconti on board, as well as the Oscar-winning sound team behind “Bohemian Rhapsody,” who will mix and sound-design the project. The film’s credentials also include re-recording mixers Paul Massey and David Giammarco, who worked on “Ford v Ferrari.” The sound design team also includes John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone, Oscar winners for Freddie Mercury biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Morgen’s film was made in cooperation with David Bowie’s state. While Bowie’s widow, Iman, has been firm about not authorizing a proper biopic of Bowie’s life, this film offers something approximate to such a tribute. She told Variety previously, “It’s always a no,” when asked about a possible fictionalized biopic. “We always ask each other, ‘Would he do it?’ He wouldn’t.” The closest thing to a Bowie-esque biopic might be Todd Haynes’ 1998 “Velvet Goldmine,” named after one of the singer’s classics, but for which Bowie opted not to license his music. A documentary approach appears to be the way to go for Bowie’s family.

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