Steve James, the Oscar-nominated director of “Hoop Dreams,” “Life Itself” and “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” has been named the 2018 Guggenheim Honoree at the AFI DOCS Film Festival, running Wednesday, June 13th through Sunday, June 17th in Washington D.C. James will be the subject of the annual Charles Guggenheim Symposium, which will take place in the Warner Bros. Theater at the National Museum of American History. At 6:30pm on Thursday, June 14th, Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips will moderate a discussion with James about his celebrated career, sampled in series of selected clips, including the first episode of his upcoming Starz series, “America to Me.”
In this program, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, James returns to the subjects that have marked his career — class, race and how the two affect social and economic mobility. Along with segment directors Rebecca Parrish (“Radical Grace”), Bing Liu (“Minding the Gap”) and Kevin Shaw (“The Street Stops Here”), James follows students at a public high school in suburban Chicago that is considered the gold standard of diversity, yet on the ground, he discovers a different story.
“Steve James is an incredible artist who uses storytelling to shed light on diverse communities that are often in crisis,” said Michael Lumpkin, Director of AFI Festivals. “As one of the most admired documentary filmmakers of his generation, we are honored to celebrate him, his history of outstanding documentaries and his latest work.”
“Hoop Dreams,” James’ three-hour portrait of young inner-city basketball players, began the filmmaker’s long affiliation with Kartemquin Films, and was selected as the best film of the 1990s by Roger Ebert. James and his fellow collaborators, Frederick Marx and William Haugse, earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Editing. James’ next documentary, “Stevie,” won major festival awards in the U.S. and internationally, as did his 2011 film, “The Interrupters.” “Life Itself,” James’ intimate look at the life and legacy of Roger Ebert, premiered to critical acclaim at Sundance in 2014 and was named the best documentary of the year by the Producer’s Guild of America and more than a dozen critics’ associations. At this year’s Oscar ceremony, James finally received a Best Documentary nomination from the Academy for “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” an infuriating and moving exploration of the family-owned bank that became a scapegoat during the 2008 mortgage crisis.
With this honor, James joins a renowned list of Guggenheim Symposium honorees including Charles Guggenheim (“Robert Kennedy Remembered”), Barbara Kopple (“Harlan County U.S.A.”), Martin Scorsese (“The Last Waltz“), Jonathan Demme (“The Argonomist”), Spike Lee (“When the Levees Broke”), Albert Maysles (“Grey Gardens“), Frederick Wiseman (“Titticut Follies”), Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker (“The War Room“), Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky (“Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills“), Errol Morris (“The Fog of War“), Alex Gibney (“Taxi to the Dark Side“), Stanley Nelson (“Freedom Riders”), Werner Herzog (“Grizzly Man“) and Laura Poitras (“Citizenfour“).
Also screening at AFI DOCS this year is “Mr. SOUL!”, a film chronicling producer Ellis Haizlip’s groundbreaking WNET public television series, “SOUL!”, which centered on the Black Arts Movement. The film was co-directed by Melissa Haizlip, a Roger and Chaz Ebert Producing Fellow at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and it is set to screen at 7pm Saturday, June 16th, in the Oprah Winfrey Theatre.
Passes and tickets to AFI DOCS, including the Charles Guggenheim Symposium, are now on sale at AFI.com/AFIDOCS.
Header photo courtesy of CYM Media & Entertainment.