SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – JANUARY 19: Matthew Reeve, Alexandra Reeve Givens, Peter Ettedgui, Ian Bonhote, and William Reeve attend the 2024 Sundance Film Festival “Super/Man” premiere at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center on January 19, 2024, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Marc Sagliocco/Shutterstock for Sundance Film Festival)
By Stephanie Ornelas
When Matthew Reeve, William Reeve, and Alexandra Reeve Givens saw Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story for the very first time, it didn’t matter that they lived in three different cities on two different continents. They just had to watch it together.
“That was a feat in and of itself,” says William. “Just the fact that we got to watch it together was special.”
And afterward, the one thing he felt was… relief.
“Because these two had done it,” says William of co-directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui. “We had given them our trust, and we didn’t know what we were going to get back. It’s a tough story to tell, and it’s possible, I hate to break it to you, that you wouldn’t have done a good job,” he laughs with the directors. “But you did a great job. And that was the relief.”
The 2024 Sundance Film Festival kicked off Opening Night in Salt Lake City at Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center with an invite-only world premiere of Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story. The emotional documentary chronicles the life of actor Christopher Reeve after a horseback riding accident leaves him permanently paralyzed from the neck down.
Using intimate footage of Reeve and his family, Bonhôte and Ettedgui paint a picture of a real-life hero known for his iconic role as Superman. To people who knew him and spent time with him, he was so much more than that. He was a champion for the disabled community, and Bonhôte and Ettedgui made it their mission to make that a focal point of the film, highlighting not just Reeve’s legacy but that of his children, who work to carry out his mission through The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.
For Alexandra, it was essential to her that the film be authentic and still express the joys and the struggles of her family’s story.
“There’s a way you can tell this story and have it just be the sweetness, to show the valleys as well as the hilltop. It matters to show that it was hard sometimes but that there’s overwhelming joy at the same time,” she says.
“Our dad was passionate about his craft and he loved this community — the beautiful family of people who are committed to the film and to theater. We’re so excited, and it is just the highest honor for this film to be shown at Sundance, of all places. The fact that it is here really means the most to us. In addition to being passionate about film, he loved a beautiful city in the mountains in the snow. We are so grateful to the people of Salt Lake City and of Park City and all of you hosting us tonight.”
“It is fitting that this film’s Sundance and Utah film journey begins in a theater because that is what shaped our dad in such a meaningful way,” adds William. “And it’s the place where he truly felt at home. We always said to each other that if we ever participated in a project like this, it would need to be at the right time and with the right people. This year is the 20-year anniversary of our dad’s passing, so it felt like the right time. It’s a Passion Pictures, Misfits Entertainment, and Words and Pictures phenomenon, so we know we have the right people. And it’s at Sundance, and it’s in Utah, so it’s definitely the right place.”
Before the film began, Matthew, Alexandra, and William took the stage to address the audience. As the packed theater cheered for them, Matthew, the youngest of the three siblings, approached the mic with a smile and said: “This is what Dad must have felt like when he walked out on stage.”
To see more of the magic from the 2024 Festival, click here.
A still from “Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story” by Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | Photo by Herb Ritts / AUGUST