CNN to gift LIFE ITSELF on Jan. 4

Confidential cinemaniacs! As we push hard to deliver C-U Confidential #8 to Champaign-Urbana as soon as possible, we’re also sneaking in extra time on the blogosphere to play catch-up with relevant stories large and small. This one is pretty self-explanatory, so much so that we’re sharing the official press release from CNN Films to help remind you that, two weeks from tonight on Sunday, January 4, sister company CNN will debut LIFE ITSELF on television at both 8 and 10 p.m. CST, with repeats on Saturday, January 10, at the same times. (Past the jump, you can take in the uneasy mix of hard information, touchy-feely hyperbole, and corporate lingo at your leisure.) We’ve also noted that merchant Web sites have begun listing Tuesday, February 17, as the street date for LIFE ITSELF on Blu-ray and DVD from Magnolia Home Entertainment, although specs and cover art are not yet available.

All links directly related to the CNN broadcasts can be found in the text below; material of various relevance can be located at Magnolia, Kartemquin Films,, and the official Web site of the documentary. You can also visit the comparable LIFE ITSELF page at “the UK’s leading documentary distributor,” Dogwoof, which released it to English cinemas on 14 November and will issue the Region 2 DVD on 23 February.

~ Jason Pankoke

p.s. This will most likely conclude LIFE ITSELF-specific coverage on C-U Blogfidential, no matter how many additional industry awards or critical accolades it will amass in the months ahead. We’re sure Roger Ebert is somewhat pleased and a bit embarrassed by all the posthumous attention down here on terra firma. Happy ethereal holidays, big guy.


From December 2, 2014:



CNN Films Global Television Premiere of Award-winning Filmmaker Steve James’ Documentary Debuts Sunday, January 4, at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. EST

(December 2, 2014; accessed December 17, 2014) – Fresh from its highly successful theatrical exhibition, LIFE ITSELF will make its global television debut on CNN/U.S. on Sunday, January 4, at 9 and 11 p.m. Eastern [8 and 10 p.m. Central]. LIFE ITSELF, based upon the 2012 [sic] memoir of the same title written by legendary film critic Roger Ebert, was also honored today as Best Documentary by the National Board of Review. The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in January and is in contention for an Oscar in the Best Documentary Feature category.

The critically-acclaimed LIFE ITSELF is directed by award-winning filmmaker Steve James, produced by James and 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, Kat White of KatLei Productions, Mark Mitten, and Vinnie Malhotra and Amy Entelis of CNN Films. LIFE ITSELF was distributed theatrically [in the United States] by Magnolia Pictures.

“I owe so much to Roger for his support and critical insights into my work over the years. We tried to make a film that would both capture his legacy and reveal his incredibly rich and surprising life,” said director James.

Revelatory about the movies, his childhood, his drinking, his love life, and his renowned rivalry with Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel, a significant portion of LIFE ITSELF is told in Ebert’s own voice, both native and synthesized, with frank candor and optimism – even as Ebert reckoned with his own mortality from the ravages of cancer.

“Her love was like a wind, pushing me back from the grave,” Roger Ebert says in the documentary about his deep, loving bond with his wife, Chaz Ebert. Both Eberts describe with great candor the origins of their meeting, their frank discussions about their interracial relationship, and the progression of his difficult illness.

The professional relationship between Ebert and Siskel was complex and multilayered. Siskel’s widow Marlene Iglitzen and television producer Thea Flaum tell stories behind the fierce competition between the two that vaulted both film critics to pop culture status.

Many in the creative film arts whose work he fearlessly reviewed still have tremendous respect and enduring love for Ebert including director James, whose early documentary HOOP DREAMS (1994) was championed by Ebert. As testament, James secured contributions to his film about a film critic from a wide array of filmmakers, including interviews with Rahmin Bahrani, Ava DuVernay, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, Gregory Nava, and Scorsese. In particular, recalling a difficult review about his 1986 film THE COLOR OF MONEY, Scorsese says it was “devastating … [but] that was a way of condemning … and helping.”

“Steve James’ beautiful film illuminates the extraordinary life of Roger Ebert well beyond the Pulitzer prize-winning film critic, but as beloved husband, father, grandfather, son, writer, mentor, and a scion of Chicago,” said Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide. “We’re excited to bring LIFE ITSELF beyond the silver screen to a broader audience across the country in its television premiere.”

LIFE ITSELF will be available in simulcast via CNNgo by logging in with a TV provider username and password on CNN’s iPad app or at The film will encore on CNN on Saturday, January 10, at 9 and 11 p.m. Eastern [8 and 10 p.m. Central].

For more information about LIFE ITSELF, please visit


CNN Films produces and acquires documentary feature films for theatrical exhibition and distribution across CNN’s multiple platforms. Amy Entelis, senior vice president of talent and content development, and Vinnie Malhotra, senior vice president of development and acquisitions, oversee the strategy for CNN Films. For more information about CNN Films, please visit and follow @CNNFilms via Twitter.


CNN Worldwide is a portfolio of two dozen news and information services across cable, satellite, radio, wireless devices, and the Internet in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. Domestically, CNN reaches more individuals on television, the Web, and mobile devices than any other cable TV news organization in the United States. Internationally, CNN is the most widely distributed news channel reaching more than 271 million households abroad. And, CNN Digital is a top network for online news, mobile news, and social media. Additionally, CNN Newsource is the world’s most extensively utilized news service partnering with hundreds of local and international news organizations around the world. CNN is a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company.


Comments closed.