Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It by Mariem Pérez Riera
A still from Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It by Mariem Pérez Riera, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Three American Masters Pictures documentaries – Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It, Ailey and Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir – will world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, which runs January 28 – February 3. These films will have their exclusive U.S. broadcast premieres on American Masters on PBS at a later date. Additionally, Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio: This is the Way We Rise, now streaming as part of American Masters and Firelight Media’s documentary short film series In the Making, will screen in Sundance’s Short Film program.

“Premiering a film at the Sundance Film Festival represents the pinnacle of achievement in independent film,” said Michael Kantor, Executive Producer, American Masters Pictures. “Our mission is to empower filmmakers to tell compelling stories about the people who shape our culture: from emerging talents like Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio to icons like Rita Moreno, Alvin Ailey and Amy Tan.”

“2021 marks five years since we launched American Masters Pictures to build on our commitment and connection to the independent film community,” said Stephen Segaller, Vice President of Programming at The WNET Group, whose THIRTEEN unit produces American Masters for PBS. “We are ecstatic that these films will premiere at Sundance and can’t wait to share them with our audiences on PBS.”

Directed by Mariem Pérez Riera, Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It follows the star’s rich, decades-long career using vérité footage of Moreno today, archival footage of her roles and appearances, reenactments of her childhood, animation and new interviews. Despite becoming the first Latina actress to win an Oscar, studios continued to offer Moreno only roles as stereotypical ethnic minorities, ignoring her proven talent. Throughout her career, Moreno paved the way for Hispanic American performers by refusing to be pigeonholed into one-dimensional stereotypes. Film interviewees include George Chakiris, Hector Elizondo, Gloria Estefan, Tom Fontana, Morgan Freeman, Mitzi Gaynor, Whoopi Goldberg, Norman Lear, Eva Longoria, Justina Machado, Terrence McNally, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Karen Olivo and Tony Taccone. Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is produced by Brent Miller, p.g.a., and is a production of American Masters Pictures and Act III Productions in association with Artemis Rising and Maramara Films.

Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir by James Redford
A still from Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir by James Redford, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by KPJR Films.

Directed by the late James Redford, Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir tells the story of the author whose first novel, “The Joy Luck Club,” was published to great commercial and critical success. With the blockbuster film adaption that followed as well as additional best-selling novels, librettos, short stories and memoirs, Tan firmly established herself as one of the most prominent and respected American literary voices working today. Archival imagery, artful animation and live performances from Tan create a vivid, colorful journey through Tan’s life and career. Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir is Redford’s last completed film and a testament to his artistry and dedication to the craft. Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir is produced by Cassandra Jabola and Karen Pritzker, and is a KPJR Films production.

Ailey by Jamila Wignot
A still from Ailey by Jamila Wignot, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jack Mitchell.

A visionary artist who found salvation through dance, Alvin Ailey confronted a world that refused to embrace him and was determined to build one that would. Directed by Jamila Wignot,Ailey is a feature-length portrait of the life and work of this brilliant, enigmatic and tenacious man. Ailey’s commitment to searching for truth in movement resulted in pioneering and enduring choreography that centers on African American experiences. This resonant biography grants artful access to the extraordinary man who founded one of the world’s most renowned dance companies: the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The documentary is an immersive portrait told in Ailey’s own words through the creation of a new commission inspired by his life. Ailey is produced by Lauren DeFilippo, and is a production of Insignia Films in association with American Masters Pictures, ITVS, XTR, Impact Partners, and Black Public Media.

In This is the Way We Rise filmmaker Ciara Lacy documents Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio, a Kanaka Maoli wahine poet, activist and academic, and her continued work towards justice for Hawaii’s native population. The short is part of the In the Making series, which is a production of Firelight Media in association with THIRTEEN’s American Masters for WNET.

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