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Crowdfunding Campaign Offers Early Look at Roger Ebert Documentary 'Life Itself'

Photo of Sam Adams By Sam Adams | Criticwire November 21, 2013 at 10:36AM

The Roger Ebert documentary directed by 'Hoop Dreams's Steve James reaches out for finishing funds, with a pre-theatrical look at the finished film as a reward.
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Kartemquin FIlms, the Chicago-based documentary company responsible for The Interrupters and this year's The Trials of Muhammad Ali, yesterday launched a crowdfunding campaign for their Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself. Hoop Dreams director Steve James has already interviewed more than two dozen subjects for the film, including Errol Morris, Werner Herzog and Middle of Nowhere's Ava DuVernay, who had her picture taken with Ebert when she was a child. But they're asking for $150,000 in finishing funds to cover a musical score, sound mix and the licensing of archival footage, the last being especially key to a movie about movies. In his video pitch, James says he wants to focus on Ebert as a critic and as a man, but then part of what made Ebert distinct was the way the two were inextricable from each other. His writing on, say, the art of using a rice cooker may not be as essential as his film criticism, but especially in the years after cancer took his voice, Ebert worked fruitfully in the space between objective evaluation and autobiography.

The Life Itself campaign offers plenty of rewards, including a one-hour editing session with James which would be a boon to any up-and-coming documentary filmmaker, but the key is an an advance digital screening of the film, which begins at the entry-level donation of $25. The estimated delivery date of January 2014 makes it likely the filmmakers are aiming for Sundance, where the film's admission would be almost a foregone conclusion. Here's an early look.

And while you're in a giving mood, take a look at Milestone's campaign to restore Film, the superlatively unlikely and collaboration between Samuel Beckett and Buster Keaton, and Arrow Films' bid to restore Walerian Borocczyk's Goto: Island of Love.

This article is related to: From the Wire, Roger Ebert Fellowship , Steve James


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