I am so happy to announce that "Life Itself," the wonderfully life-affirming documentary about my late husband Roger Ebert, was nominated for a Best Documentary Emmy by The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS). The film was directed by award winning director, Steve James, and was produced by CNN Films and Kartemquin Films. It was nominated in the the 37th annual News & Documentary Emmy awards, which will be presented at the Lincoln Center on September 21, 2016. "Life Itself" also garnered another nomination for Outstanding Editing, an honor shared by both Steve James and David E. Simpson, longtime colleagues at Kartemquin Films. Kartemquin Films was also honored with a nomination for its profoundly moving film, "The Homestretch," about homeless high school students in Chicago. CNN Worldwide was honored with a total of 15 News & Documentary nominations setting a new network record.
CNN Films broadcast "Life Itself" all across the country, and there is not a week that goes past when we don't receive letters at our website, RogerEbert.com, telling us what the film, and Roger meant to them. But what touches me even more are the comments about how Roger's words about empathy and putting one's self in the shoes of a person of another race, religion, age, physical ability, economic status or sexual identity are more important today than when he first uttered them. Roger said movies can be a giant machine that generates empathy by awakening and touching places deep within us that cause us to change. Cinema at its best has the power to touch hearts and change minds.
Roger's passion for film was matched by his passion for humanity, and I think that comes through in the documentary. Roger and his partner Gene Siskel reviewed films through several prisms, as entertainment, as a look into the lives of others whose lives were different from our own, as mood enhancers, and for Roger, as a glimpse into life itself. Steve James set out to make a different film, but as the circumstances of Roger's life changed, the film changed, and with the permission of Roger to be as transparent as possible, the film evolved into a slightly subversive journey through the universal experience. It showed us a man who was fully human, certainly not a saint, but one who cared deeply for human rights and justice. It made us look into the corners of illness and mortality, and showed how death is a part of life, and how we can face it on our own terms. David Simpson's editing caused it to transcend the life of one man, making it more emotionally accessible in a way that the every day person could relate to. The film helped us to identify with the vulnerabilities of life, and highlighted the importance and beauty of family and love and connection. It is a film that was almost not made. But I am so glad it was.
These Emmy nominations are the latest honors for "Life Itself," which made the Oscar shortlist in 2015, and was named Best Documentary by the Producer's Guild of America, and the National Board of Review. Among other awards it earned were the Founders Prize at the Traverse City Film Festival, a Jury Prize at the Documentary Edge Festival in New Zealand, the Best Documentary prize at the 5th American Film Festival in Wrocław, Poland and Best Equality of the Sexes at the Women Film Critics Circle Awards.
It also earned a number of Best Documentary accolades from film critics' groups including: the Critics' Choice award, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, the Florida Film Critics Circle, the Chicago Film Critics Association, the Indiana Film Journalists Association, the Online Film Critics Society, the African-American Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Online, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, the Georgia Film Critics Association, the North Carolina Film Critics Association, the North Texas Film Critics Association, the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle, the Southeastern Film Critics and the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association.
I extend heartfelt thanks and congratulations to the entire “Life Itself” team:
Director: Steve James; Producers: Zak Piper, Steve James, Garrett Basch; Executive Producers: Martin Scorsese, Steven Zaillian, Michael W. Ferro, Jr., Gordon Quinn, Justine Nagan, Kat White, Mark Mitten; Executive Producers, CNN Films: Vinnie Malhotra, Amy Entelis; Supervising Producers, CNN Films: Courtney Sexton, Lizzie Kerner and Co-Producers: Emily Hart, Josh Schollmeyer and Mark Mitten.
The 37th Annual News & Documentary Emmy® Awards honors programming distributed during the calendar year 2015. The winners will be announced at the Award Presentation at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in NYC on September 21st. For the full list of nominees, click here.