The Wagner/Cuban Company’s Magnolia Pictures announced today that they have acquired US theatrical, VOD and home entertainment rights to “Life Itself”, a documentary about the life of Roger Ebert directed by Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Steve James (”Hoop Dreams”, ”The Interrupters”). A Kartemquin Films and Film Rites production in association with KatLei Productions, “Life Itself” premiered to critical acclaim at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Magnolia is eyeing a summer release, followed by an exclusive broadcast on CNN later this year, reprising a successful collaboration with CNN Films on the hit documentary Blackfish.
Roger Ebert was a beloved national figure and arguably our best-known and most influential movie critic, and his passing in 2013 was deeply felt across the country. Based on his memoir of the same name, “Life Itself”F recounts his fascinating and flawed journey—from politicized school newspaperman, to Chicago Sun-Times movie critic, to Pulitzer Prize winner, to television household name, to the miracle of finding love at 50, and finally his “third act” as a major voice on the Internet when he could no longer physically speak.
“Roger Ebert gets the tribute he deserves with Life Itself,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles. “Steve James has done a beautiful job capturing Roger’s complexity and energy in a loving but wonderfully clear-eyed portrait.”
Said director Steve James, “Magnolia is the perfect partner for bringing this film on such a seminal figure in film to the big screen. Roger’s story deserves it.”
“We’re delighted to re-team with Magnolia for another thoughtful film that will have a strong, lasting impact on all who see it. Together, we look forward to bringing Steve James’ beautiful portrait of an American icon to audiences across all platforms,” Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide.
The deal was negotiated for Magnolia by SVP of Acquisitions Dori Begley with Cinetic Media on behalf of Kartemquin, Film Rites, KatLei and CNN Films.
Steve James directed “Life Itself”, which was produced by Zak Piper for Kartemquin Films and Garrett Basch for Film Rites, with executive producers Martin Scorsese, Steve Zaillian, Michael W. Ferro Jr., Justine Nagan and Gordon Quinn of Kartemquin Films, Kat White of KatLei Productions, Mark Mitten, and Vinnie Malhotra and Amy Entelis of CNN Films.