Three American Masters Pictures Films Selected for DOC NYC Film Festival

When the largest documentary film festival in the U.S. kicks off in November, three American Masters Pictures productions will be among the 200-plus films showcased. All New York City premieres, these films about violinist Itzhak Perlman, entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., and playwright Lorraine Hansberry are all funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Each will have its exclusive U.S. broadcast premiere on American Masters on PBS.

Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart

Award-winning filmmaker Tracy Heather Strain examines Lorraine Hansberry’s life and work using a remarkable collection of archival footage, home movies, rare photos and unpublished documents. Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (1959) changed the face of American theater by depicting the limitations of the American dream through the lives of a black family on Chicago’s South Side. The play’s richly drawn characters and unprecedented subject matter attracted record crowds and earned it the coveted top prize from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle.

The film features interviews with Hollywood legends such as Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Harry Belafonte, and Louis Gossett Jr., narration by award-winning actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson, and the voice of Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose as Hansberry. The result is a timely and revealing portrait of an activist and artist whose popular recognition has, until now, remained long overdue.

Screening information from DOC NYC.

This documentary is part of American Masters’ Inspiring Woman online campaign and will premiere January 19, 2018 on PBS (check local listings).


Alison Chernick’s Itzhak traces the inspiring story of legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman. It is a story of obstacles and survival, from childhood polio to the international stage. Widely considered one of the greatest living violinists, the film follows Perlman’s journey, including concert performances and a visit to his native Israel. Exploring the ways in which Perlman’s passion for music allowed him to find a platform for personal expression against tremendous circumstances, Chernick creates a portrait of man whose remarkable will to survive is never removed from his tremendous generosity and humor.

Screening information from DOC NYC.

Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me

Sammy Davis, Jr. backstage photo from the documentary SAMMY DAVIS, JR.: I’VE GOTTA BE ME.
Photo Credit: The Estate of Altovise Davis

Director Sam Pollard examines the extraordinary life of Sammy Davis, Jr. in the first major film documentary to examine the entertainer’s life and career. Making a name for himself against the backdrop of the struggle for civil rights, the film chart’s Davis’ journey for identity through the shifting tides of racial progress. Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me explores the life and art of a uniquely gifted entertainer whose trajectory blazed across the major flashpoints of American society from the Depression through the 1980s.

The film features new interviews with Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis, Whoopi Goldberg and Kim Novak, with never-before-seen photographs from Davis’ vast personal collection.

Screening information from DOC NYC.


Based at the West Village’s IFC Center, Chelsea’s SVA Theater and Bow Tie Chelsea Cinema, this year’s DOC NYC festival runs November 9-16 and showcases new achievements in documentary film along with panels and conversations. It also seeks to make connections that happen “only in New York.”

WNET, home to PBS stations THIRTEEN, WLIW21 and NJTV, is the producer of American Masters and a media sponsor of DOC NYC.