The Ebert documentary, which is based on the film critic's memoir "Life Itself," will be directed by Steve James ("Hoop Dreams"), and will be produced by Kartemquin Films and Zaillian, along with Garrett Basch's Film Rites. The film will be released theatrically before it airs on CNN next year.
A second film, from the directors Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein ("Gunner Palace"), will focus on the events at Ground Zero and the country as a whole in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Using still photography to tell the tale, the untitled film "reveals secret stories behind some of the most extraordinary pictures from that horrific day, and examines how images help us heal and understand," CNN Films said.
Andrew Rossi, director of "Page One: Inside the New York Times," will direct the third project, which is also untitled and will explore the dramatic transformation occurring in America's higher education system, via the stories of students, professors and school administrators.
“CNN is proud to announce these production agreements at this festival which has done so much to support independent storytelling,” CNN Worldwide managing editor Mark Whitaker said of the acquisitions. “Our aim at CNN Films is to showcase the work of exceptional documentary filmmakers and to build conversations around the issues they raise across our global platforms.”