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2016 Sundance Film Festival Predictions: Pacho Velez’s The Reagan Years


When the award-winning Manakamana landed on the film festival circuit (the Golden Leopard win in Locarno was the first of many worthy acknowledgments), it not only further demonstrated the excellence out of the Sensory Ethnography Lab and made a name for the filmmaker tandem with an anthropological-like curiosity, but one refreshing takeaway was that it reminded us that there are novel approaches in nonfiction filmmaking with huge, emotionally giddy payoffs. For his next project, docu-helmer Pacho Velez takes a President whose legacy mysteriously continues to enflame and shape current politico debate. Spliced into three parts and presented as a series of shorts (The Reagan Shorts) at the Rotterdam Film Fest this past January, The Reagan Years is certainly in getting ready phase as it was invited to the July set Sundance Institute Music and Sound Design Lab. Proposed as an archival journey from Hollywood to the White House, the big question is how Alzheimer’s factors into being a leader of the Free World.

GistThe Reagan Years is about a prolific actor’s defining role: Leader of the Free World. It uses the Reagan administration’s internal documentation to capture the spectacle of American might at its acme. Told entirely through a largely-unseen trove of archival footage, the film captures the pageantry, pathos, and charisma that followed the 40th President from Hollywood to the nation’s capital.

Production Co./Producers: Sierra Pettengill (Cutie and the Boxer)

Prediction: U.S. Documentary Competition.

U.S. Distributor: Rights Available. TBD (domestic). TBD (international)

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist and critic at (founded in 2000). Eric is a regular at Sundance, Cannes and TIFF. He has a BFA in Film Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013 he served as a Narrative Competition Jury Member at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson's This Teacher (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022 he served as a New Flesh Comp for Best First Feature at the 2022 Fantasia Intl. Film Festival. Current top films for 2022 include Tár (Todd Field), All That Breathes (Shaunak Sen), Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).

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