Sam Green

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Sam Green

Sam Green is an American documentary filmmaker. His most recent projects are “live documentaries” in which he narrates a film in-person while musicians perform a live soundtrack. His 2012 project The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller featured a live score by the band Yo La Tengo. Green's 2004 film The Weather Underground was nominated for an Academy Award, broadcast nationally on PBS, and included in the Whitney Biennial.[1]

Early life[edit]

Green was raised in East Lansing, Michigan and is a graduate of East Lansing High School.[2] He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He received his master's degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied documentary with filmmaker Marlon Riggs.[3]


One of Green's earliest films,The Rainbow Man/John 3:16, focuses on the life of Rollen Stewart, who became famous during the 1970s by appearing at thousands of televised sporting events wearing a rainbow-colored wig.[4] The film premiered at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival, where director of programming Trevor Groth described it as "a parable about alienation, the media, and the meaninglessness that often defines American life."[5] Green received the Creative Capital Moving Image Award in 2001.[6]

Sam Green and Yo La Tengo performing "The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller" at SFMOMA, May 2, 2012

Green's feature-length documentary film The Weather Underground focused on the group of violent extremists of the same name, who during the late 1960s and '70s attempted to violently overthrow the United States government. The film premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for a 2003 Academy Award for Documentary Feature category.[7] The award winning film interweaves extensive archival material with modern-day interviews to explore the story of the Weather Underground. The New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell called the documentary a "terrifically smart and solid piece of film-making."[8]

Sam Green's documentary Utopia in Four Movements (2010) also premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, in the category entitled "New Frontiers." In this "live" documentary, Green narrates the 75-minute film while a live band performs the soundtrack; the film examines various topics, including an American exile in Cuba, the world's largest shopping mall (located in China), the treatment of mass graves, and the history of the man-made language Esperanto.[9]

Green’s 2012 live documentary, The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, is a portrait of the theorist and designer Buckminster Fuller and features a live soundtrack by the band Yo La Tengo.[10] The piece combines in-person narration and live music alongside projected film clips and photographs.[11] It was commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and premiered at the San Francisco Film Festival in May 2012.

Green’s 2014 live documentary, entitled The Measure of All Things, is based very loosely on the Guinness Book of World Records. The piece premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and is screened with live scores by the chamber group yMusic and a trio made up of Brendan Canty (Fugazi), T. Griffin, and Catherine McRae.

Green's most recent live documentary, A Thousand Thoughts, chronicles the multi-decade career of the Kronos Quartet. The piece premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and won the San Francisco Film Festival audience award.[12] The piece is screened with a live score performed by the Kronos Quartet.[13]


  • A Thousand Thoughts (2018)[13]
  • Julius Caesar was Buried in a Pet Cemetery (2018)[14]
  • This is What the Future Looked Like, co-directed with Gary Hustwit (2017)
  • Brent Green/Sam Green: Live Cinema (2016)
  • The Measure of All Things, with the chamber music group yMusic and a trio made up of Brendan Canty (Fugazi), T. Griffin, and Catherine McRae (2014)[15]
  • A Cinematic Study of Fog in San Francisco, co-directed with Andy Black (2013)
  • Love Letter to the Fog (2013)[16]
  • The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller, with the band Yo La Tengo (2012)[17]
  • The Universal Language (2011)[18]
  • (Commissioned) Portrait of Las Vegas (2011)
  • Utopia in Four Movements, co-directed with Dave Cerf (2010)[19][20]
  • Utopia, Part 3: The World's Largest Shopping Mall, co-directed with Carrie Lozano (2009)[21]
  • Clear Glasses (2008)
  • Lot 63, Grave C (2006)
  • N-Judah 5:30 (2004)
  • The Weather Underground (2003)
  • Pie Fight '69, co-directed with Christian Bruno (2000)
  • The Fabulous Stains: Behind the Movie, co-directed with Sarah Jacobson (1999)
  • The Rainbow Man/John 3:16 (1997)


  1. ^ Entry on Sam Green in the Internet Movie Database, accessed June 8, 2007.
  2. ^ East Lansing High notable alumni
  3. ^ Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, retrieved 2013-03-18 Archived 2012-09-10 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ What's with those "John 3:16" signs, The Straight Dope
  5. ^ The Rainbow Man/John 3:16, Sundance Institute Film Archive, retrieved 2013-03-18
  6. ^ (
  7. ^ "Film-maker Sam Green to Screen, Discuss The Weather Underground at UCR", University of California, Riverside, Office of Strategic Communications, January 25, 2005, accessed June 8, 2007.
  8. ^ "A Trip Back to the Contradictions of the Stormy 60's" by Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times, June 4, 2003.
  9. ^ Utopia in Four Movements, Sundance Institute Film Archive, retrieved 2013-03-18
  10. ^ SFMOMA press archives, retrieved 2013-03-18
  11. ^ "Movies That Spill Beyond the Screen" by Dennis Lim, The New York Times, April 5, 2013.
  12. ^ SFFILM (2018-04-17). "Meet the Golden Gate Award winners at the 2018 SFFILM Festival". Medium. Retrieved 2018-10-02.
  13. ^ a b "A Thousand Thoughts". A Thousand Thoughts. Retrieved 2018-01-15.
  14. ^ "julius-caesar-was-buried-in-a-pet-cemetery". Retrieved 2018-01-15.
  15. ^ The Measure of All Things film website
  16. ^ EMPAC Interview with Sam Green
  17. ^ The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller film website
  18. ^ The Universal Language film website
  19. ^ Utopia in Four Movements film website
  20. ^ Interview with Ambulante Film Festival
  21. ^ 2009 Sundance Festival catalog

External links[edit]