Sundance: Neon Nabs Alvin Ailey Dance Documentary 'Ailey'

Ailey
Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

The deal marks Neon's second acquisition after picking up the animated doc 'Flee.'

Neon has picked up Jamila Wignot’s documentary Ailey, about dance and choreography legend Alvin Ailey, after its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival.

The deal is Neon's second at Sundance after it nabbed the North American rights to Flee, an animated doc from Jonas Poher Rasmussen that counts Riz Ahmed and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as executive producers.

Ailey debuted on Saturday as it presented audio interviews recorded in the last year of Ailey's life and rare dance performances by the Ailey Company and first-hand accounts.

Ailey is a searing and inspirational account of a visionary artistic genius who used his gift of dance and movement to express the Black American experience. Jamila Wignot has created an indelible portrait of both the artist and his work and Neon is thrilled to be part of continuing his legacy by bringing this remarkable film to theaters across the country," Darcy Heusel, Neon's head of impact and audience engagement, said in a statement.

In his early years as a dancer, Ailey worked on Hollywood productions including 1952's Lydia Bailey and 1954's Carmen Jones. He later appeared on Broadway shows including House of Flowers, penned by Truman Capote, and Sing, Man, Sing, starring Harry Belafonte, and formed the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater troupe in 1958. The group became known as the "Cultural Ambassador to the World" due to its many overseas tours. Twenty-five years after Ailey died in 1989, he was awarded a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Barack Obama.

Ailey is directed by Wignot, produced by Lauren DeFilippo and edited by Annukka Lilja. Rebecca Kent served as archival producer while Naiti Gámez was director of photography and Al Malonga was production designer. Daniel Bernard Roumain composed the music.

The film is produced by Insignia Films in association with American Masters Pictures, the Ford Foundation's JustFilms, ITVS, XTR, Impact Partners, and Black Public Media. Stephen Ives, Amanda Pollak, Michael Kantor, Emily Blavatnik, Judy Kinberg, Sally Jo Fifer, Tony Hsieh, Roberto Grande, Mimi Pham, Bryn Mooser, Kathryn Everett, Jenny Raskin, Geralyn White Dreyfous and Regina K. Scully executive produced.

The deal was negotiated by Ayo Kepher-Maat and Jeff Deutchman for Neon and Jason Ishikawa and Shane Riley of Cinetic on behalf of the filmmakers. Dogwoof is handling international sales.