The film from director Lisa Cortés examines the seismic impact that Richard Penniman, known professionally as Little Richard, had on the origins of rock and roll, as well as his personal struggles with his sexuality and religious faith. The film uses archival footage, much of it involving his dynamic performances, to tell that story. Magnolia plans to release “Little Richard: I Am Everything” in April.
“Little Richard is the true king of rock and roll, the alpha and omega of wild, rhythm-based music,” said Magnolia Pictures President Eamonn Bowles. “Lisa Cortés does the legend proud, getting the true story that celebrates this icon who shook the culture in so many ways.”
“Rock n’ roll, race, and queerness are core to our culture — and our culture wars,” said Cortés. “Little Richard changed America’s notions of all three. I’m thrilled that Magnolia Pictures is bringing this raucous, revolutionary icon to the world at this moment, when his journey could not be more relevant.”
Reviews coming out of Sundance were strong, with Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman praising Cortés for “…perceiving Little Richard as a wild genius of Black and queer culture,” which he argued allows us to see “…him more clearly than ever.”
It’s the second notable sale since the festival kicked off on Thursday. Earlier, Netflix picked up rights in the U.S. and numerous international territories to “Run Rabbit Run,” a thriller starring Sarah Snook.
The Little Richard documentary is produced by Robert Friedman, Cortés, Liz Yale Marsh and Caryn Capotosto. It is executive produced by Mike Powers, Anita May Rosenstein and Dee Rees; Jason Fine and Gus Wenner for Rolling Stone Films; and Amy Entelis and Courtney Sexton for CNN Films. HBO Max is an executive producer and holds domestic and international SVOD streaming rights to the film.
The deal was negotiated by Dori Begley, Magnolia executive vice president, and John Von Thaden, senior vice president of acquisitions. Stacey Wolf, senior vice president of business affairs, and Kelly MacLanahan, assistant general counsel, both of CNN Worldwide, represented CNN Films and the filmmakers.
Cortés is repped by Lowell Shapiro and Mike Dill at Blackbox Management.