Steve James is one of America’s most acclaimed documentary filmmakers. His latest film Life Itself about the legendary film critic Roger Ebert is his sixth to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. The film has been heralded by critics as a thought-provoking, clear-eyed examination of the life and the trials of a treasured social icon. It is a deeply moving, brutally honest portrait of this beloved national figure, and has been proclaimed to be “one of the best films at Sundance.” (Mike Ryan, Huffington Post)
Steve James is best known for his groundbreaking documentary Hoop Dreams, the insightful and compassionate story of two teenagers who hope to escape their inner-city Chicago neighborhoods by parlaying their basketball skills into NBA careers. Hoop Dreams won the documentary Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival along with every major critics award in 1994. The film also earned a Peabody and Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 1995, the Directors Guild of America Award, and the MTV Movie Award’s "Best New Filmmaker." Recently, Hoop Dreams was selected for the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, signifying the film’s enduring importance to American film history, and hailed by critic Roger Ebert as "the great American documentary."
James' next documentary, Stevie, won major festival awards at Sundance, Amsterdam, Yamagata and Philadelphia, and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. The acclaimed feature landed on a dozen "Top Ten Films of the Year" lists for 2003. He then directed PBS series, The New Americans, which won two Chicago International Television Festival Golden Hugos, and the prestigious 2004 International Documentary Association Award for Best Limited Series for Television. In 2005, James completed the documentary Reel Paradise, another film honored by its Sundance inclusion.
In 2008, he directed the acclaimed At the Death House Door, which won the top prize at the Atlanta Film Festival, the Inspiration Award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and aired on IFC-TV. James' 2010 documentary No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iversonhad its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival and aired as part of ESPN Films' 2010 International Documentary Association award-winning series 30 for 30. The film was selected for the IDOCS International Documentary Forum in Beijing, and also played at the Cleveland, Full Frame, Dallas, Nashville and Atlanta film festivals, among others, as well as earning James the Best Director award at the Midwest Film Awards. In 2011, No Crossover was selected by the U.S. Department of State for the American Documentary Showcase.
In 2011 James released his fifth film to premiere at Sundance, The Interrupters. Marking a return to some of the same Chicago neighborhoods featured in Hoop Dreams. The film won a dozen awards including the grand jury prizes at the Sheffield Film Festival, Miami Film Festival, and Minneapolis Film Festival. It won both the IndieWire and Village Voice’s national critics polls as the best documentary of the year, and was listed on over 60 “Best Films of the Year” lists including Time, The New Yorker, The Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, and The LA Times among others. James won the two top prizes at the 2012 Cinema Eye Honors – “Nonfiction Feature Filmmaking" & "Best Direction.” The Interrupters also won the 2012 Independent Spirit Award. In 2013, the FRONTLINE broadcast of the film received an Emmy.
James’ dramatic films include the theatrical feature Prefontaine (1997), which premiered at Sundance, and cable movies Passing Glory (1999) and Joe and Max (2002), which was nominated for an ESPN Espy Award.