AFI DOCS Announces 'HOLBROOK/TWAIN: AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY' And 'LIFE ITSELF' As Opening And Closing Night Selections

Actor Hal Holbrook Introduces the World Premiere as Opening Night

America's Movie Critic Roger Ebert is Celebrated as Closing Night

May 15, 2014, 09:00 ET from American Film Institute

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- AFI DOCS Documentary Festival announced the World Premiere of HOLBROOK/TWAIN: AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY and LIFE ITSELF as the Opening and Closing Night films, respectively, for this year's installment of the festival. 

Actor Hal Holbrook will introduce the World Premiere and open AFI DOCS on June 18 at the Newseum.  HOLBROOK/TWAIN: AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY, directed by Scott Teems, is an intimate portrait of the actor and the play he has performed continuously over the past six decades.

LIFE ITSELF, directed by Steve James (HOOP DREAMS), pays tribute to the beloved movie critic Roger Ebert.  The film will be presented on June 21 at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery.

"HOLBROOK/TWAIN and LIFE ITSELF invite audiences into the lives of two iconic individuals – Hal Holbrook and Roger Ebert," said Christine O'Malley, AFI DOCS Interim Festival Director.  "We are presenting their stories in landmark American venues dedicated to culture and history.  We could not be more thrilled to bookend the festival with these exceptional films."

For 60 consecutive years, Holbrook has been touring with his Tony® and Emmy® Award-winning one-man show, "Mark Twain Tonight!," in which he portrays the renowned American writer and satirist.  It is regarded as the longest-running one-man show in the history of theater.  In HOLBROOK/TWAIN: AN AMERICAN ODYSSEY, Teems (THAT EVENING SUN) takes audiences behind the scenes for an intimate peek at the actor's life and to examine Mark Twain's timeless influence in America.

"AFI DOCS is the ideal festival to premiere our film, because both Twain's writings and Holbrook's one-man masterpiece remain strikingly relevant and timely observations of this wonderful and conflicted country of ours," said Teems.  "The themes and ideas presented in our film align beautifully with AFI DOCS, and we couldn't be happier to premiere the film in Washington, DC."

James' documentary about Ebert, LIFE ITSELF, paints a vivid portrait of the critic, whose genuine love of movies helped him remain a relevant voice in film even after his physical voice had been silenced from a devastating battle with cancer.

"We are thrilled to have our film selected as the Closing Night screening for AFI DOCS, a film festival with which I've had a long and wonderful relationship," said James.  "Roger loved documentaries and, as a critic, had a profound impact on the success of so many of them over the years.  To be honored at one of the very best festivals devoted to the art form would have greatly pleased him."

Tickets will be available in June, and details will be announced in the coming weeks at

American Airlines is the official airline of AFI and a proud sponsor of the festival.  The Washington Post is proud to be a major media sponsor of AFI DOCS.

About the Newseum
The mission of the Newseum is to champion the five freedoms of the First Amendment through education, information and entertainment.  One of the top attractions in Washington, DC, the Newseum's 250,000-square-foot news museum offers visitors a state-of-the-art experience that blends news history with up-to-the-second technology and hands-on exhibits.  The Newseum Institute serves as a forum for First Amendment study, exploration and education.  The Newseum is a 501(c)(3) public charity funded by generous individuals, corporations and foundations, including the Freedom Forum.  For more information, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the National Portrait Gallery
The Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery tells the history of America through the people who have shaped its culture.  Through the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists whose lives tell the American story.  The National Portrait Gallery, part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, is located at Eighth and F Streets NW, Washington, DC.  Smithsonian Information:  202.633.1000.  Website:

SOURCE American Film Institute