With a bit of a repeat of last year, the first film of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival saw a maestro of television honored as the belle of the ball. Like in 2015 when Netflix’s What Happened, Miss Simone? opened the fest, a jam packed Eccles Theatre had Ted Sarandos and Norman Lear hanging out, an introduction from Robert Redford & a standing ovation at the end.
Of course this year the NAPTE buddies and avowed mutual admirers were here for the debut of Norman Lear: Just Another Version Of You on opening night 2016. Stylized and full of footage on-screen and backstage from Lear’s shows like All In The Family, The Jefferson and Maude, tonight’s film also featured appearances by Amy Poehler, George Clooney, Disney’s Alan Horn, Rob Reiner, Lena Dunham, Jon Stewart among many more. Set to play on PBS’ American Masters later this year, the docu from Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, who co-directed 2006’s Oscar nominated Jesus Camp, has four more screenings during the festival – though it is doubtful that any of them will be quite as emotional as tonight.
Especially after the short but poignant opening words from Redford.
“He brought humanity, edge, humor and vulnerability into the mainstream and we owe him a great debt for that,” said the Oscar winning director to loud applause from the Eccles stage Thursday. The festival’s founder also made a point of thanking Lear for helping Sundance out in the early days when funds were tight.
“If we could all of us find the largest bed and get into bed together, it would express how I’m feeling,” the 93-year old Lear told the laughing audience of over 1,300 after the screening. The founder of People For The American Way also offered his take on the rise of Donald Trump to the front of the GOP Presidential contenders, “I think it is the American people saying screw you to leadership everywhere,” said Lear , echoing past statements he’s made of the poll topping Trump – again to great laughter from the Sundance crowd.