Life Itself is a documentary film from Steve James, Executive Producers Martin Scorsese and Steven Zaillian that recounts the life of world-renowned film critic and social commentator Roger Ebert.
A personal, wistful, funny, painful, and transcendent story based on his bestselling memoir of the same name, the film explores the impact and legacy of Roger Ebert’s life – to which the filmmakers were granted unprecedented access during his final four months. During this time, they captured Ebert’s fighting spirit, his sharp sense of humour, and the ways that he inspired filmmakers, family and fans.
The film features candid and insightful interviews with many of the principal producers of Sneak Previews, the PBS incarnation of his groundbreaking television show with Gene Siskel, along with the first ever feature documentary interview with Siskel’s wife, Marlene. Sneak Previews brought Ebert to the fore and transformed Chicago into an epicentre for film criticism, in this programme and as President Obama cited, “When he didn’t like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive – capturing the unique power of the movies to take us some place magical.”
While the film is celebratory, it is of course incredibly poignant: the team unaware for the majority of their filming that this was to be Ebert’s final living four months. James explains that “I feel his loss personally, along with the legion of fans, colleagues, and admirers who felt like they really knew him and had been touched by him,” Ebert championing independent film and providing accessible inspiration for the next generations of film lovers.
This film is an honest account of the daily travails and history of Ebert, a man who forever changed what it meant to be at the movies.
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