Life Itself,” the documentary based on renowned film critic Roger Ebert’s rollicking memoir of the same name, is set to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 19 in Park City, Utah. In a first, the film will be live streamed simultaneously to Ebert’s fans and supporters who sign up at filmmaker Kartemquin’s Indiegogo campaign. The campaign runs through midnight January 13 at Indiegogo.com.
“Roger was always at the leading edge of technology,” said Chaz Ebert, Roger’s wife and the publisher of RogerEbert.com, the movie review site the Eberts redesigned and re-launched last spring. “Kartemquin’s decision to use crowd funding for the project, and to stream the film to fans, fits nicely with Roger’s affinity for technology and his special gift of connecting to his readers across the globe. He would have wanted as many people as possible to join in this historic event.”
In another first, the Sundance Institute and IndieWire.com in conjunction with the Ebert Foundation will host the first six Roger Ebert Film Critic Scholars at the festival. Chaz adds: “The internship program that Eric Kohn at IndieWire.com started a few years ago is brilliant, and I am pleased that Robert Redford saw how to integrate it into the Sundance programs. I look forward to working with Eric and the aspiring critics. Roger loved mentoring emerging journalists and so this is particularly close to my heart.”
The Sundance Institute is the first to establish a film critic’s scholarship in Ebert’s name. Chaz is in talks to establish additional scholarships tied to other film festivals and universities. In addition, Film Independent will acknowledge Ebert at the Independent Spirit Awards March 1 with a grant to an emerging filmmaker.
Steve James, who previously won acclaim for “Hoop Dreams,” is directing “Life Itself” and will be conducting a Q&A afterwards. Says James: “Roger allowed us full access so the film provides an unvarnished glimpse of his ascent as a cultural arbiter, from college newspaper editor and serial dating bachelor to television icon and devoted family man, to his decade-long cancer battle. You couldn’t ask for a better subject.”
Executive produced by Martin Scorsese and Steven Zaillian (“Schindler’s List,” “Money Ball”), “Life Itself” was one of three films selected for special screening before members of the Sundance Institute at the festival, which runs January16-26.
Having the film premiere at Sundance is a fitting venue, Chaz Ebert said, because Roger was an early supporter of Redford’s efforts to establish a presence to showcase independent American cinema. The film is to be theatrically released in 2014. CNN Films has picked up the television rights.