The Grateful Dead will celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary with an authorized feature documentary that will be directed by Amir Bar-Lev, helmer of the superb films The Tillman Story and most recently the Penn State football scandal Happy Valley. Martin Scorsese, whose own rock docus have provided the template for how to make these kinds of movies, will be executive producer along with Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Andrew Heller, Sanford Heller, and Rick Yorn. Longtime Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux will serve as the film’s music supervisor.
Alex Blavatnik is financing through his AOMA Sunshine Films and Eric Eisner, Nicholas Koskoff, and Justin Kreutzmann will produce in a co-production between Double E Pictures, Axis Films, and Sikelia Productions.
The makers say their as-yet-untitled film will include never-before-seen footage of performances and backstage stuff involving the band, as well as new interviews with surviving members Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Phil Lesh, and Bob Weir, as well as many other characters and pranksters from the Dead universe. This goes back to the band’s formation in the Bay Area amid the rise of the psychedelic counterculture of the ’60s. They continued to record albums and conduct tours where Deadhead fans would follow them all over the country for lengthy rave-like jam sessions. The good times came to an end when band leader Jerry Garcia died in 1995, though surviving members have done their best to carry on. There have been numerous attempts to mount a narrative feature on the band, but this docu is clearly on the fastest track.
The band issued this statement: “Millions of stories have been told about the Grateful Dead over the years. With our 50th Anniversary coming up, we thought it might just be time to tell one ourselves and Amir is the perfect guy to help us do it. Needless to say, we are humbled to be collaborating with Martin Scorsese. From The Last Waltz to George Harrison: Living In The Material World, from Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones, he has made some of the greatest music documentaries ever with some of our favorite artists and we are honored to have him involved. The 50th will be another monumental milestone to celebrate with our fans and we cannot wait to share this film with them,” said surviving members Hart, Kreutzmann, Lesh, and Weir.
Bar-Lev said he has been trying to find a way to make a movie about the band for a decade, and was most grateful. As for Scorsese, he said: “The Grateful Dead were more than just a band. They were their own planet, populated by millions of devoted fans. I’m very happy that this picture is being made and proud to be involved.”