CNN is covering the Sundance Film Festival this year but the news network’s recently created film division is making its debut in Park City as a buyer too. Vinnie Malhotra, SVP of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide, is on the ground looking at documentaries to acquire for CNN Films. Formed in October, this is CNN Films’ first time as a buyer at Sundance. Amy Entelis, SVP of talent and content development for CNN Worldwide is also at the Festival looking for acquisitions. CNN Films is also using its presence at Sundance to announce a trio of documentaries today that it has previously acquired for broadcast. The network plans to air Life Itself in 2014 from executive producers Martin Scorsese and Steve Zaillian. Based on the best-selling memoir by Roger Ebert, the film is produced by Kartemquin Films and Zaillian and Garrett Basch’s Film Rites. In production, Life Itself will have a theatrical release before airing on CNN next year. The network has also picked up an as yet untitled documentary on the days following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The co-directorial team of Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein plans to examine some of the striking photography from 9/11 and its aftermath to look at how the images became part of the national healing process. CNN Films also picked up filmmaker Andrew Rossi’s untitled film on the future of higher education in America. Both of the untitled films are scheduled to air on CNN later this year.
“CNN is proud to announce these production agreements at this festival which has done so much to support independent storytelling. Our aim at CNN Films is to showcase the work of exceptional documentary filmmakers and to build conversations around the issues they raise across our global platforms,” said managing editor for CNN Worldwide Mark Whitaker in a statement on Friday. While being announced formally tonight at Sundance, none of the films were acquired at the Festival, past or present. The network also plans to reveal that Cate Blanchett, Priyanka Chopra, Salma Hayek, Alicia Keys, Freida Pinto, Chloë Moretz, and Liam Neeson will join the previously announced Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez and Kerry Washington in contributing voiceovers to the documentary Girl Rising. CNN Films acquired the rights to the film last year. The movie details the stories of girls from around the globe who are fighting against their circumstances. Girl Rising is directed by Richard E. Robbins and executive produced by Tom Yellin and Holly Gordon of the Documentary Group and Paul G. Allen of Vulcan Productions. A Sundance sneak preview of the film is scheduled for January 21st. The film’s theatrical debut in March will be followed by its broadcast premiere on CNN in June 2013.