Sammy Davis, Jr. Documentary Sets Premiere Date

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Sammy Davis, Jr. backstage photo from the documentary Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me (Photo: Estate of Altovise Davis; used with permission)

The first major film documentary to examine Sammy Davis Jr.’s vast talent and his journey for identity through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress will make its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. The trailer for Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me was released today (August 16) by its director, Sam Pollard.

From the announcement: “Davis’s career was indisputably legendary, so vast and multi-faceted that it was dizzying in its scope and scale. And yet, his life was complex, complicated and contradictory. Davis strove to achieve the American Dream in a time of racial prejudice and shifting political territory. He was the veteran of increasingly outdated show business traditions trying to stay relevant; he frequently found himself bracketed by the bigotry of white America and the distaste of black America.

“Featuring new interviews with such luminaries as Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis, Whoopi Goldberg, Quincy Jones and Kim Novak, with never-before-seen photographs from Davis’ vast personal collection and excerpts from his electric performances in television, film and concert, 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’s title takes its name from one of the singer-actor-dancer’s many signature hits.

Watch the Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me trailer

Related: Do you know what Davis’ biggest hit of his career was in 1982?

Pollard is an award-winning feature film and television video editor, and documentary producer/director whose work spans almost 30 years. Between 1990 and 2010, he edited many of Spike Lee’s films including Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever and Clockers. Pollard and Lee also co-produced a number of documentary productions for the small and big screen: Spike Lee Presents Mike Tyson, a biographical sketch for HBO for which Pollard received an Emmy; and Four Little Girls, a feature-length documentary about the 1963 Birmingham church bombings that was nominated for an Academy Award, among them.

Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me is an American Masters Pictures production in co-production with ZDF in collaboration with ARTE, and produced by Sally Rosenthal and Michael Kantor.

Screening dates for Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me at TIFF are forthcoming.

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