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At the age of three his immense talent was already on display as he sang and tap danced his way across the country performing with his father and godfather. In the 1950s, he notoriously dated Hollywood star Kim Novak prompting Columbia Pictures bigwig Harry Cohn to order him to stick to Black women. Following a serious car accident in which he lost an eye, Davis converted to Judaism. In the 1960s, the only African American member of the legendary Rat Pack, he supported John F. Kennedy's candidacy, marched in Selma with Martin Luther King and became a prominent activist in the civil rights movement. And then in 1972 he shocked the country by supporting Richard Nixon for reelection, giving him a famous hug on stage during the Republican convention.
It's hard to imagine a more talented and groundbreaking performer who led a more complicated and contradictory life than Davis. He did not shy away from controversy and was not afraid to use his name and talent for a good cause. Featuring excerpts from his exhilarating performances and interviews with the likes of Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis and Whoopi Goldberg, director Sam Pollard's riveting documentary unpacks the apparent contradictions and presents a very full and very human portrait of this complex, courageous and conflicted man. -Jay Rosenblatt
"The fast-paced, classically constructed American Masters production, Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me, has a lot more to say, but it is sobering how Davis' life always seems to come back to controversies over race and his fight to be accepted for the immensely talented entertainer he was." –Deborah Young, The Hollywood Reporter
Presented in partnership with the Museum of the African Diaspora.
Director Sam Pollard in conversation with MoAD Director & CEO Linda Harrison in San Francisco
Sam Pollard is a feature film and television video editor, and documentary producer/director whose work spans almost 30 years. His first assignment as a documentary producer came in 1989 for Henry Hampton's Blackside production Eyes On The Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads. For one of his episodes in this series, he received an Emmy. Eight years later, he returned to Blackside as co-executive producer/producer of Hampton's last documentary series, I'll Make Me A World: Stories of African-American Artists and Community. For the series, Pollard received a Peabody Award. Pollard has edited a number of Spike Lee's films, including Mo' Better Blues, Jungle Fever, Girl 6, Clockers and Bamboozled and the two have co-produced a number of documentary productions for the small and big screen. Other directing credits include Slavery By Another Name (2012), August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand (2015), Two Trains Runnin' (2016), and The Talk: Race in America (2017).
Closing Night Reception
Sunday, July 29, following Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me
Castro Theatre Mezzanine, San Francisco
After the film, join SFJFF38 and Closing Night partners MoAD on the Castro Theatre's mezzanine to indulge in some tasty drinks and dishes and toast the end of another stellar year in San Francisco before taking the Festival to the East Bay and San Rafael.
Film & Party: $22 Members / $25 General