“Life According to Sam,” directed by Sean and Andrea Nix Fine. In recent years, the Fines have won three Emmys and been nominated for an Oscar. With “Life According to Sam,” they profile Sam Berns, a teenage boy with a rare disease called progeria that causes his body to show advanced signs of aging. Despite the fact progeria almost always results in death before the age of 18, Sam maintains a sincerely sunny outlook on life. Additionally, Sam’s mother, Leslie Gordon, blesses the lives of dozens of children by tenaciously working to find a viable treatment for progeria.
The Fines understand that in order for a film such as “Life According to Sam” to maximize its impact, the documentary needs to spark earnest dialogue like dinner-table discussions.
“We’ve found that (our other films) get to be successful when people leave the movie theater or screening and they talk about it,” Sean Fine told the Deseret News. “They talk about (the movie) at dinner, they talk about it for a couple days later and it makes them think about bigger things than what they just watched on the screen.
“And we’re getting that kind of reaction from people with ‘Life According to Sam.’ The kind of thing that’s really neat is you have this kid — who most of us if we saw him on the street would just stare at when he walked by and kind of wonder, ‘What’s wrong with that kid?’ — and here he is causing people to think differently about their lives. That’s the power of filmmaking, and I think that’s the power of documentaries.”
Distribution forecast: HBO Documentaries owns the rights to "Life According to Sam." On HBO's website for the film, the status is listed as "coming soon."
“American Promise,” directed by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson. The documentary follows two African-American boys — and their supportive families — across 13 years of the ups and downs that are an inevitable part of getting a quality education in the U.S. “American Promise” won a Special Jury Award for U.S. documentaries at the Sundance awards ceremony on Jan. 26.
The two boys, Idris Brewster and Sean Summers, journey from carefree kindergarteners to mature high school graduates. If the film’s portrayal of Idris and Seun feels particularly warm and affectionate, it's because co-directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson are not only married to one another, but also the parents of Idris. Throughout the documentary, the filmmakers wrestle with issues concerning their son’s education — making "American Promise" a film with which virtually all parents can easily identify.
Brewster, a psychiatrist with degrees from Stanford and Harvard, told the Deseret News, “We strongly believe that parents as well as educators have to be more demanding. You have to demand that these boys achieve at a high level, and you have to give them some emotional support for that achievement at the same time. It’s a balancing act; it really requires seeing them as capable, as potentially able to be successful. And that’s complicated.”
Distribution forecast: “American Promise” will air on PBS this summer as part of the “POV” documentary series.
Jamshid Ghazi Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 801-236-6051.
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