On Sunday, January 19, Life Itself world premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Playing in the MARC Theater to a packed house, Life Itself also streamed worldwide to over 1,600 Ebert fans who contributed to the film’s recent Indiegogo campaign.
“Roger was all about community, the democratization of film, film viewing, and the film experience,” director Steve James recently said, and to stream the film to Ebert fans worldwide was a way for the filmmakers to honor Ebert’s egalitarian beliefs.
The premiere was a resounding success, with tearful tributes and words of praise flooding in from fans and critics alike. The screening was followed by an emotional Q&A with Steve James, Chaz Ebert, Marlene Iglitzen, and William Nack, one of Ebert’s oldest friends. As she is in the film, Chaz Ebert was the star of the night, and her love for Roger was shared by not only everyone sitting in the MARC Theater, but everyone watching the film and Q&A online.
Without the contributions of those 1,600 Ebert fans, the Sundance premiere would not have been possible. We are so thankful to all of you for taking the time to donate to the film, and for continuing to support it. Life Itself is for you, and for everyone whose lives Roger Ebert touched in a meaningful way. There will be a total of five screenings of Life Itself at Sundance, followed by three pre-theatrical screenings in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles only for Indiegogo backers. You can check out the schedule here.
Again, THANK YOU, and we are so excited to finally say, "See you at THIS movie!"
The critic's reviews are pouring in from Sundance, and they are giving LIFE ITSELF a unanimous two thumbs way up:
"Steve James' engrossing documentary about Roger Ebert celebrates the late film critic's life and work but also presents an unflinching view of his medical difficulties." Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
"A big-hearted, absorbing documentary about a writer who kept on writing until very near the end. Anyone who cared about Roger Ebert will find it necessary viewing." Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
"A life spent at the movies gets the cinematic epitaph it richly deserves in “Life Itself,” documentarian Steve James’ meticulous and intensely emotional portrait of the late Roger Ebert." Scott Foundas, Variety
"In a lifetime at the movies, Roger Ebert consumed a lot of empathy, so there’s something almost luminous about seeing him take that empathy and shine it back on himself." Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
"Having a behind-the-scenes look at the truth of Roger's remark that Chaz's love was "like a wind pushing me back from the grave" genuinely brought tears to my eyes." Kenneth Turan, LA Times
"James should be high-fived every day of his life for telling the real story of Roger Ebert." Chase Whale, Indiewire
"Ebert was more than just a famous critic; he elevated the medium through his criticism. Life Itself is the tribute he deserves." Casey Newton, The Verge
"I had never been as keen to see a film as I was to see Life Itself, and I have never been so immensely moved by one as I was by it." Scott Jordan Harris, The Telegraph
"All I’ll say that is when one of your lifelong heroes passes away, I hope they get a documentary tribute as entertaining, touching, and satisfying as Life Itself." Scott Weinberg, Geek Nation
"A perfect biographical documentary, possibly one of the classics, this is a lovingly and brutally honest portrait of a famous film critic in the final days of his life. I sincerely can't think of any way that it could have been better." Christopher Campbell, Nonfics
"This is an impressively clear-eyed and deeply moving portrait." Amber Wilkinson, The Telegraph
"Viewers filing out of the theater pronounced the film Oscar worthy." Lucas Shaw, The Wrap
"Life Itself is one of the best films at Sundance." Mike Ryan, Huffington Post
"Steve James' wonderful, heartbreaking "Life Itself" to give us the whole man in all his personas, some graceful, some not-so-nice... That's what makes this a great documentary rather than a very good one: James comes to his subject with respect and affection, but he understands that a documentarian's job is to assemble the paints and then allow the portrait to paint itself." Ty Burr, Boston Globe
"If Sundance gave an award for the most emotionally debilitating film of the festival, then Life Itself, a documentary from Hoop Dreams director Steve James about the life of Roger Ebert, would win it anew every screening... it’s the movie that’s moved and inspired me the most." Jada Yuan, Vulture
"Life Itself is a complete look at Ebert’s incredible life that elicits laughs, tears and gasps. Most of all, though, it drives us to one particular phrase: Two Thumbs Way Up." - Germain Lussier, SlashFilm
"The film acts as a fascinating, loving, and ultimately heartbreaking tribute to the life and legacy of Roger Ebert. A-" Adam Chitwood, Collider
"When I say that Life Itself offered me a welcome opportunity to share quality time with an old friend, well, that’s only because it did. And for that, I am immensely grateful." Joe Leydon, Indiewire / MovingPictureBlog
"How appropriate, then, that a writer who devoted much of his life to sharing his passion for cinema should have such a moving film dedicated to his memory." Ryan Lambie, Den of Geek
"I believe that had Ebert himself lived to see LIFE ITSELF premiere at Sundance, it would have easily gotten his thumbs up seal of approval." Chris Bumbray, Joblo.com
"It’s somehow fitting that our final goodbye to Roger comes through the medium that he spent so much of his life loving to tell us about: the movies." Shannon Nutt, High-Def Digest
“Life Itself allows us to watch Ebert go into that final shared darkness we all have to face with a light – and not a thumb – held high to guide us as one his final gift: A graceful, grateful model of how, if we’re as smart as we are lucky, we might one day die." James Rocchi, Film.com
"Life Itself is exactly what we go to the movies for." Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News
"A bluntly truthful, brilliantly made, profoundly touching portrait." Jeff Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere
"As the full, unvarnished portrait of the people’s critic, Life Itself is surprising, touching, and unforgettable. It vaults to the rarefied air of the very best documentaries about the history of cinema; if you care deeply about the seventh art and the life’s work of Roger Ebert, you will love this film." Gary Suderman, The Script Lab
"No [Sundance] film seemed to touch as many attendees, however, as “Life Itself,” Steve James’s intimate look back at the career of the late film critic Roger Ebert. James previously directed the seminal Sundance documentary “Hoop Dreams,” and with a candid Ebert as his subject this time around, he creates a film that is at once hard to watch and deeply captivating." Jeff Oloizia, T: The New York Times Style Magazine
"Does justice to the disparate seasons of a complicated man’s life, capturing Ebert’s evolution from boy dreamer to national treasure with compassion, empathy and a welcome lack of sentimentality. James has created a roaring, defiant celebration of life that doubles as a valentine to the film and newspaper world in which Ebert found his truest homes." - Nathan Rabin, The Dissolve
"Wonderful, inspiring, sad and also charming... not only is “Life Itself” a fine remembrance of Roger Ebert, it’s also a good reminder to follow your dreams, love big and never give up." Don R. Lewis, Film Threat
“Life Itself is a moving tribute to one exceptional critic and, by extension, his profession, but it’s also a celebration of celebrating movies and, at its heart, a salute to any life lived fully.” Daniel Fienberg, HitFix
"A truly excellent piece of work... the tangible facts of Life Itself may inspire tears, but the way in which it reminds us of Ebert’s influence is a joyful thing to consider, something worth celebrating all by itself." Josh Spiegel, Sound on Sight
"When you have the likes of Martin Scorsese choking up on screen, it's clear that we're seeing something remarkable captured. As a doc, the arc of the story flows well, the interviews compelling and well shot, the portrait of the man complex and engaging. It's another remarkable film from a truly remarkable filmmaker." Jason Gorber, Twitchfilm
"Life Itself is a warm tribute to film, criticism, and the incomparable Roger Ebert... watching it, I finally understood how football players must feel about Brian’s Song." Jason Bailey, Flavor Wire