EXCLUSIVE: Oliver Sacks: His Own Life, the Ric Burns documentary about the famed neurologist and author that the premiered this fall at the Telluride Film Festival, has been acquired by Zeitgeist Films in association with Kino Lorber. As part of the U.S. rights deal, the pic will open theatrically in May 2020 at Film Forum in New York, followed by a national rollout.
The documentary, which counts American Masters Pictures among its producers, will have its exclusive U.S. broadcast premiere in 2021 on PBS’ American Masters series.
Burns explores Sacks’ life and work as the renowned thinker shares details of his battles with drug addiction, homophobia, and a medical establishment that accepted his work only decades after the fact. It features exclusive interviews with Sacks done just weeks after he received a terminal cancer diagnosis, and months prior to his death in August 2015.
“We were very impressed by the sensitivity Ric Burns showed in telling Sacks’ story and his ability to get a very private individual like Sacks to open up to him,” Zeitgeist Films co-presidents Nancy Gerstman and Emily Russo said of the pic, which played the fest circuit including New York, Hamptons and AFI. “It’s not an easy thing to win the trust of such a person and we felt that we got to know Sacks intimately and gained an enormous empathy for what he experienced in his life. Everyone who thinks they know Oliver Sacks through his writings will be surprised by his lifelong struggles, and those few people who don’t already know his work will be dazzled by his achievements.”
Leigh Howell, Bonnie Lafave and Kathryn Clinard produced the pic, a a Vulcan Productions, Steeplechase Films, American Masters Pictures, Motto Pictures, Passion Pictures, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, Sandbox Films and Independent Television Service production in association with Artemis Rising Foundation, ARTE and WDR.
Executive producers include Paul G. Allen, Carole Tomko, Rocky Collins, Michael Kantor, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Doron Weber, Arthur G. Altschul Jr., Margaret Munzer Loeb, Nion McEvoy, Regina K. Scully, Geralyn White Dreyfous, David Guy Elisco, Sean B. Carroll, Sally Jo Fifer, John Battsek, Nicole Stott and Greg Boustead.
Kino Lorber SVP Wendy Lidell and CEO Richard Lorber negotiated the deal with Submarine’s Ben Schwartz, Josh Braun and Matt Burke on behalf of Steeplechase and the filmmaking team.