The late Roger Ebert liked to think of movies as a great empathy machine that helped people identify with the characters they watched onscreen and the people that sat next to them in the theater. For more than 40 years, Ebert was a giant engine that helped drive that machine, and in Life Itself, the Sundance documentary from Hoop Dreams director Steve James, his friends and colleagues look back on his most wonderful life. He won a Pulitzer Prize – a rarity for film criticism – and also penned the screenplay for Russ Meyer’s boob-tastic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. This was a complex man of many talents and interests who can’t be graded with a simple thumbs-up or down.
In the first trailer for the film, which opens in theaters and VOD on July 4, Ebert jousts with balcony nemesis Gene Siskel, while legends such as Martin Scorsese try to explain his legacy. Watch it below: