American Masters: Life/Career Of Legendary Actress Rita Moreno

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Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It,” a documentary on the legendary actress and singer’s career, will have its world debut at the Sundance Film Festival this month. The film spans from her humble beginnings in her native Puerto Rico to her success on Broadway and Hollywood.

Directed by Mariem Pérez Riera (“Lovesickness,” “Chamacas”), the documentary follows the prolific, decades-long career of the now-89-year-old actress and singer, using different styles, elements and media. It utilizes vérité footage of Moreno today, archival footage of her past performances and appearances, childhood reenactments, animation and new interviews. It also features interviews with actors, filmmakers and singers with whom Moreno has worked, including Morgan Freeman, Hector Elizondo, Eva Longoria, Whoopi Goldberg, Justina Machado, Gloria Estefan and Karen Olivo.

“As a filmmaker, woman, and Puerto Rican, I am proud to have the opportunity to tell Rita’s story,” said Pérez Riera. “Her many victories in the face of prejudice are an inspiration to me. Hopefully, this film will give strength to women all over the world, who today face a similar fight towards equality.”

PBS Connection

The documentary is a production of American Masters Pictures and Norman Lear’s Act III Productions in association with Artemis Rising Foundation and Maramara Films. American Masters Pictures is a theatrical imprint for documentaries co-produced by PBS’s “American Masters” series.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It” will screen virtually at Sundance as part of the U.S. Documentary Competition on Jan. 29 at 12 p.m. and have a second screening on Jan. 31. As part of the festival, it will also screen at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico and in U.S. cities like Atlanta, Key West, New Orleans, San Francisco and Tucson.

“When I learned from my producing partner Brent Miller that a film had not yet been made on Rita Moreno, I couldn’t believe it and suggested we make it together,” said executive producer Norman Lear. “There’s no woman more deserving of the ‘American Masters’ stamp. Her talent, her activism, her life are all worthy of an audience. And her story, an inspiration to so many, is one that should live on forever.”

Miller, Pérez Riera and Ilia J. Vélez Dávila are producers of the documentary.

Making history

Born in Humacao, Puerto Rico, in 1931, Moreno was the first Latina actress to win an Academy Award. She earned it for her role as Anita in the film adaptation of Broadway’s musical “West Side Story in 1962. Despite such an accomplishment, Moreno kept being given mainly stereotypical ethnic roles.

Moreno remained relevant through persistence and hard work and went on to win other coveted prizes in the entertainment industry, including top awards in music, theater and television.

Portrait of actress Rita Moreno, sitting on a table with her feet on a chair, as she appears in the movie ‘Cattle Town’, 1952. *** Retrato de la actriz Rita Moreno, sentada en una mesa con los pies levantados, como se ve en la película ‘Cattle Town’, 1952. (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

She earned the Grammy for best recording for children with “The Electric Company” for the children’s TV show of the same title; a Tony for her performance in the play “The Ritz;” and two Primetime Emmy Awards for her acting in “The Muppet Show” and “The Rockford Files.” Moreno is one of only 16 EGOT artists, or those who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. She is the only Latina in that distinguished group.

Furthermore, she has won a Golden Globe and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“La Reina”

For Lin-Manuel Miranda, an executive producer in the documentary, Moreno is an icon and a source of inspiration.

“Rita is La Reina. Punto. Full stop,” said the Oscar nominee and Tony Award winner of “Hamilton”-fame. “Her life, talent, and career is a masterclass in the American dream. It is about time that she takes her rightful place amongst her peers on ‘American Masters.’”

In recognition of her long, illustrious career, Moreno has received the Library of Congress Living Legends Award, Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award and Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award. Two U.S. presidents have bestowed upon her some of the nation’s highest civilian and artistic honors. Former President George W. Bush presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Former President Barack Obama with the National Medal of the Arts.

Puerto Rican actress, dancer and singer Rita Moreno with a cake dedicated to ‘West Side Story’, UK, 25th February 1963. *** La actriz, bailarina y cantante Rita Moreno con un pastel dedicado a ‘Amor sin barreras’, 25 de febrero de 1963, Reino Unido. (Kaye/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

More recently, Moreno received the Online Film Critics Society Lifetime Achievement Award and the Peabody Career Achievement Award, both in 2019. Last year, she was co-marshal of the Rose Parade, along with actress Gina Torres and Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez.

Still working in her eighties

The passage of time has never slowed down this actress and dancer, whose first film work included a part in “Singin’ in the Rain,” Gene Kelly’s 1952 classic musical. According to trade website IMDB, Moreno’s movie and TV credits list over 160 roles, including the series “Jane the Virgin,” “Bless This Mess,” and “One Day at a Time.”

She returned to the big screen in Steven Spielberg’s new cinematic version of “West Side Story.”

“Rita Moreno has won every major award — the Peabody, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony — for a good reason,” said Michael Kantor, another executive producer of the documentary. “She is not just an American Master; she is an American treasure.”

For festival tickets to the screenings of “Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It,” visit: https://tickets.festival.sundance.org/. For in-person-screening tickets, visit https://fpg.festival.sundance.org/live-events.

American Masters: Life/Career Of Legendary Actress Rita Moreno was first published in LatinHeat Entertainment.

(Edited by Gabriela Olmos and Carlin Becker.)

(Additional reporting by Bel Hernandez.)



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