PARK CITY — CNN Films, a production and acquisition unit of CNN Worldwide, has used the Sundance Film Festival as a springboard from which to announce a trio of documentary acquisitions.
CNN Films is also expected to be a buyer at the film festival.
The company is acquiring U.S. broadcast rights to a documentary about film critic Roger Ebert; it will be based on Ebert’s memoir, Life Itself. The project is being produced by Kartemquin Films and Steve Zaillian and Garrett Basch’s Film Rites. Steve James will direct and Martin Scorsese and Zaillian are executive producing. The film is now in production; it will be theatrically released before the CNN airing in 2014.
The two other untitled projects are expected to air on CNN in 2013. One, from directors Michael Tucker and Petra Epperleini, centers on 9/11 and reconstructs the events at Ground Zero; the other, from director Andrew Rossi, focuses on the transformation of higher education, examining the costs and relevance of college.
“CNN is proud to announce these production agreements at this festival, which has done so much to support independent storytelling,” said Mark Whitaker, managing editor for CNN Worldwide, in a statement. “Our aim at CNN Films is to showcase the work of exceptional documentary filmmakers and to build conversations around the issues they raise across our global platforms.”
CNN Films will show a segment of Girl Rising, a documentary about the effort of nine girls from around the world to get an education, at a Sundance event on Monday. Girl Rising will bow in theaters in March and debut on CNN in June. The company acquired the film, which is directed by Richard E. Robbins, in spring 2012. Girl Rising is executive produced by Tom Yellin and Holly Gordon of the Documentary Group and Paul Allen, the NFL and NBA team owner who also is the founder and chairman of Vulcan Productions.