Madeleine Sackler is an Emmy® Award-winning director and producer based in New York City and Los Angeles. She has two films that were recently released by HBO, including her narrative feature debut, entitled O.G., starring Jeffrey Wright. O.G. tells the story of a man who is on the verge of his release after serving 24 years in prison. Jeffrey’s performance garnered the Best Actor Award at Tribeca Film Festival. In addition to O.G., Madeleine also filmed a documentary feature in partnership with thirteen men incarcerated in the prison. IT'S A HARD TRUTH AIN'T IT reveals the men both in front of and behind the camera as they learn how to make a film in order to tell their own stories, using animation to bring their memories to life in riveting detail. Madeleine received the Bill Webber Award for Community Service from Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison for the pair of films, using her work to elevate the voices of those incarcerated.
Training initially as an editor, Madeleine's films range in subject matter, tone and style, beginning with her first feature documentary, THE LOTTERY. Following four families in Harlem and the Bronx seeking a high-quality education for their young children despite the odds, the film helped spark a renewed debate on the future of public education and was shortlisted for the 2011 Academy Awards. DUKE 91&92: BACK TO BACK, her second film, was co-produced with Turner Sports and gave viewers an inside look into one of the most storied basketball programs in history.
Madeleine's third film, Emmy-winning DANGEROUS ACTS STARRING THE UNSTABLE ELEMENTS OF BELARUS, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013 and was acquired by HBO. Incorporating footage that was smuggled out of the dictatorship in Belarus, the feature documentary follows the Belarus Free Theatre, an underground theater, as they escape the country and struggle to keep making art. DANGEROUS ACTS received several awards in addition to the Outstanding Arts and Cultural Programming Emmy, which include the Grand Jury prize at One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, the Golden Butterfly at The Hague Movies that Matter Festival, Best Documentary at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, the Audience Award at Lighthouse International Film Festival, and 3 awards at Biografilm Festival, including the Audience Award.
Prior to focusing exclusively on feature filmmaking, Madeleine co-founded Osmosis Films, a media consulting company that worked with large financial services companies and non-profits. Madeleine's initial training was in post-production, working as an editor and assistant editor, editing such films as FERNANDO NATION, an ESPN 30-for-30 about Dodgers' pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. Madeleine also produced several short films, such as Boyd Holbrook's directorial debut, PEACOCK KILLER (starring Shea Whigham), based on a short story by Sam Shepard, and James Lawler's sci-fi short, EDEN 2045 (starring Tyler Jacob Moore). A Duke alum, Madeleine has a B.S. in Psychology and minors in English and Biology, and her favorite class was photography. She is represented by WME and Mosaic.
More about Madeleine
Who is Madeleine Sackler?
Madeleine Sackler is a film director and producer who has directed both documentaries and fictional films. She studied Biopsychology at Duke University and started her film career as an editor. She is the founder of the film company Great Curve Films and her films include O.G., It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It, and The Lottery.
What are Madeleine Sackler’s most recent films?
In 2018 Madeleine Sackler directed and produced two films: O.G., starring Jeffrey Wright, is a fictional account of a man about to be released after 24 years in prison. Concurrently she released the documentary It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It, in which she worked with 13 incarcerated men, so that they could learn to film in order tell their own stories.
Where were O.G. and It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It filmed?
Both films were filmed in a maximum-security prison to give the most honest depiction of the experience of being in prison, to move away from the tropes of the typical ‘prison film.’ Collaborating on all aspects of the filmmaking with incarcerated men and filming inside the prison helped to create an authentic portrayal.
What other full-length documentaries did Madeleine Sackler direct?
Madeleine Sackler’s first feature documentary, The Lottery, delves into the controversy about public schools in the United States and explores the debate about the education reform movement. Inspiration came for the film by a news story of a charter school lottery at the Harlem Armory in 2008. Four families in Harlem were featured in The Lottery.
Duke 91&92: Back To Back, tells the riveting story of the Duke Blue devils attempt to win back to back championships and includes interviews with players and footage of actual games. Grant Hill and Christian Laettner were producers on the film.
Her third documentary, Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus, uses smuggled footage and uncensored interviews to tell the story of repression by the government and gives insight into the resistance movement in Belarus, featuring artists standing up to the regime.
What compelled Madeleine Sackler to make films about Prison?
From her interview in Women in Hollywood: “I learned that nearly everyone — over 95 percent — of people who are in prison today will be released. Around 400,000 people walk out of prison — every year! That felt like an enormous number of people, and yet I’d only seen prison films and TV shows that seemed to sensationalize the experience of being incarcerated, and so I became curious about what that experience was really like for someone getting ready to go ‘home.
I wanted to work with men in prison to make a true prison film, reflecting the complexity of the emotions and experiences that this character, Louis, might have.