Norman Lear documentary will help open 2016 Sundance Film Festival

Sundance, the annual kick-off of film festival season, has announced most of its 2016 lineup. While a number of comedians will head to Utah in January to represent their roles in a variety of independent comedies, rom-coms and dramedies, there are relatively few selections so far purely centered on comedians.

But Norman Lear is a giant in comedy, so it’s nice to see a new documentary on the legendary TV creator while the 93-year-old is still alive to see its reception. Which will happen opening night.

Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You / U.S.A. (Directors: Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady) — How did a poor Jewish kid from Connecticut bring us Archie Bunker and become one of the most successful television producers ever? Norman Lear brought provocative subjects like war, poverty, and prejudice into 120 million homes every week. He proved that social change was possible through an unlikely prism: laughter. World Premiere. DAY ONE FILM

Sundance in 2016 also welcomes the world premieres of two TV talk series: Netflix’s Chelsea Does… starring Chelsea Handler and CNN’s United Shades of America starring W. Kamau Bell.

Chelsea Does / U.S.A. (Director: Eddie Schmidt) — This four-part documentary series features Chelsea Handler as she explores topics of personal and universal fascination: marriage, racism, Silicon Valley, and drugs. The Festival will premiere one installment of the series with clips from the other three installments, followed by an extended Q&A with Chelsea Handler, Director Eddie Schmidt, and Executive Producer Morgan Neville. World Premiere

United Shades of America / U.S.A. (Executive Producers: Jimmy Fox, W. Kamau Bell, Star Price) — Political comedian W. Kamau Bell explores the racial subcultures of America. In this original series premiere, he uses humor to challenge Klansmen looking to rebrand their message. The screening will include an extended Q&A. World Premiere

And Reggie Watts will host one of the installations as part of the Sundance Institute. Here’s the description for that:

Artists: Benjamin Dickinson, Reggie Watts, Luis Blackaller; Key Collaborators: Anthony Batt, Neville Spiteri
Reggie Watts weaves a virtual reality story that is a dream-within-a-dream meta-ride down the rabbit hole, where the only constants seem to be his philosophical musings, comedic insights, and musical genius. Cast: Reggie Watts, Nathalie Emmanuel.

You can find descriptions for all of the films selected for Sundance 2016 on the festival site.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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