Little Richard Doc Premieres at Sundance, Set for HBO Max in April

There’s a new Little Richard documentary being released and it recently premiered at Sundance Film Festival.

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Directed by Lisa Cortés, the “eye-opening” documentary looks deeply at the life of Little Richard, a trailblazer of rock ‘n’ roll—born Richard Wayne Penniman, and the exploitation of his sound and music. The new movie, Little Richard: I Am Everything, will air in April on HBO Max.

According to the description of the film on the Sundance website, the movie is a “clarifying light on the Black, queer origins of rock ’n’ roll, and establishes the genre’s big bang: Richard Wayne Penniman.”

The website continues, “Cortés depicts Penniman’s complex journey as a conflicted revolutionary who careened between religion, sex, and rock ’n’ roll, navigating the extreme tensions of race and sexuality of his time. She reminds us that outsiders and outcasts can possess superpowers that, given the chance, can create new worlds for us all to dance in.”

A central scene in the movie is one with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a founding parent of rock ‘n’ roll, who gave Richard, who was then just 14 years old, his first break.

The movie follows Richard from Macon, Georgia to his “Tutti Frutti” explosion. The son of a minister and bootlegger, Richard grew up gay. For a Black man in America, this was especially difficult. And, as many critics have pointed out as of late, the artist never got his due, his “flowers” for what he created and sustained for the world.

“He was gay, but I didn’t really know that then,” said director John Waters. ” I knew something was different. He just became part of my identity. And Little Richard’s mustache I wear, to this day, for over fifty years, in a twisted tribute to him.”

The film was purchased by Magnolia Pictures.

“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.”

Watch a “Meet the Artist 2023” video from Sundance with the movie’s director below.

Photo by Lester Cohen/ Getty Images

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