Looks like there’s a little bit of a Selma reunion taking place at the Sundance Film Festival’s opening night. As I exclusively revealed a few days ago, John Legend is playing after the screening of What Happened, Miss Simone? tonight in Park City. But also joining the Oscar nominee in the house for the documentary about legendary chanteuse Nina Simone – one of the 25,000 who joined Martin Luther King Jr. in the historic 1965 marches in Selma, Alabama – is Selma director Ava DuVernay. Multiple Grammy winner Legend is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song with Common for their anthemic ditty “Glory.”
DuVernay and Legend weren’t the only big names in the jam-packed Eccles Theater tonight at the Netflix film’s early-evening premiere. TV legend Norman Lear flew up from Miami with Netflix Chief Creative Officer Ted Sarandos, I’ve learned, to attend the screening. Also in the audience was True Detective Season 1 helmer Cary Fukunaga, who is speaking later tonight at the big-ticket Artist at the Table Sundance fundraiser.
The crowd also included Jane The Virgin EP Ben Silverman, who saw his show’s star Gina Rodriguez take home the Golden Globe this month after breaking out here two years ago in the rap drama Filly Brown. Fisher Stevens, a producer on Sundance premiere Racing Extinction from The Cove director Louie Psihoyos, also is on the scene.
Robert Redford introduced the film and praised the role documentaries have played in the evolution of Sundance. He also highlighted Miss Simone director Liz Garbus, “who we have a long relationship with.” Garbus has brought her films to Park City numerous times and won the Grand Jury Prize in 1998 for The Farm: Angola, USA (co-directed by Wilbert Rideau and Jonathan Stack), which went on to earn an Oscar nomination.