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

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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 IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury 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 was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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