Sunset and the Mockingbird tells the love story of jazz pianist Junior Mance and Gloria Clayborne, his wife, manager and soulmate.
Born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, Junior played his first gig in Chicago in 1939 when he was just 10 years old. He’s recorded over 200 albums with jazz greats including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Dinah Washington.
Gloria grew up on her family’s Virginia farm in the 1950’s. Driven by an ambition to experience the world beyond, she earned two degrees, became a teacher and moved to New York City, where she discovered jazz. She saw Junior play numerous times before they spoke; his music made her euphoric.
In 1997, Junior approached Gloria at a gig. They had an instant connection, and married one year later. Junior recognized Gloria’s methodical approach to life as a perfect compliment to the freewheeling lifestyle of a jazz musician. He asked her to be his manager and together they formed JunGlo Records. Aware that Junior, 22 years her senior, was in his golden years, Gloria retired early so they could tour the world as partners in music and love.
In 2012, Junior suffered a stroke that led to dementia. His musical abilities were initially untouched, but his impending decline compelled Gloria to become Junior’s manager in ways she hadn’t anticipated. She knew she had to protect his legacy and ensure his final performances were defined by his talent not his affliction. As his partner, she dreaded what would happen when she retired him altogether. Music had always been his everything, and the centerpiece of their shared life. Without it, she wondered, who he would be who would they be together?
Gloria ultimately discovers Junior’s condition has gifted him the belief that he’s performing nightly around the world. She realizes he’ll never be without the music. It lives inside him.
Gloria makes peace with the fact that Junior’s dementia is one thing she cannot control. As she is forced to let go, she discovers a new sense of who she is without him. Within that discovery is the revelation that music, which brought them together, can close the distance between them
Sunset and the Mockingbird chronicles the closing of a love story and offers a nuanced, human and often unexpectedly humorous look at love and loss in a story that is more hopeful than heartbreaking. Gloria and Junior’s relationship, in its enduring complexity, imperfection and connection, offers insights into navigating life’s challenges with acceptance and compassion.
DIRECTOR • PRODUCER
Jyllian Gunther is an Emmy-winning director, writer and producer. Feature documentary credits include: The New Public, aired on PBS, distributed by Kino Lorber, available widely online and added to library collections of over 100 educational institutions nationwide. Her first film, Pull Out, critically acclaimed and also available online. Series credits include: ABC/Viola Davis docu-series, The Last Defense, (producer); JigSaw/New Yorker/Amazon Studios series, The New Yorker Presents (director/producer/writer); Emmy-winning series, Who Do You Think You Are? (supervising producer/director); PBS educational PSA series, One Way, for which she won an Emmy(director/producer/writer); Emmy award-winning PBS series, Postcards from Buster, (director,producer) She was reporter/co-producer for NPR's,This American Life.
Kali Holloway is the Director of the Make It Right Project, a new national campaign to take down Confederate Monuments and tell the truth about history; she is also a Senior Correspondent at the Independent Media Institute. She previously was Senior Writer and Associate Editor of Media & Culture at progressive news site AlterNet. She co-curated the Metropolitan Museum of Art's MetLiveArts 2017 summer performance and film series “Theater of the Resist.” She was Director of Outreach and Audience Engagement for the HBO documentary Southern Rites, PBS documentary The New Public and the Emmy-nominated film Brooklyn Castle, and Outreach Consultant on the award-winning documentary The New Black. She worked in production and programming on the long-running PBS documentary film series POV. Prior to that, she was speechwriter for a New York City Commissioner and Deputy Director of Communications for the New York State court system. Her writing has appeared in Salon, The Guardian, TIME, Huffington Post, The National Memo, Yahoo!
Melissa Neidich is an award-winning documentary editor, working in the field for twenty years. Notable documentaries she has edited include: The Rest I Makeup, Soul in the Hole, which won an Independent Spirit Award; Dark Days, which also won an Independent Spirit Award and a Sundance Audience Award; and Two Towns of Jasper, which won a Dupont Award. Her latest feature—Out of the Clear Blue Sky— opened to rave reviews.
Jonathan Gray is a practicing attorney concentrating in independent film and television for over two decades and is the founding partner of Gray Krauss Sandler Des Rochers LLP, which has provided production counsel services on hundreds of films. Notable films include Moonlight; Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire; The Station Agent; Black Swan; Beasts of the Southern Wild. Jonathan is also an Emmy nominated producer, and has produced and executive produced over 50 films. In addition, Jonathan is an adjunct professor at Columbia University School of the Arts.
Yance Ford is the director of Strong Island, which was nominated for a 2018 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature and won the Special Jury Award for Storytelling at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Ford is a Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program Fellow and a MacDowell Colony Fellow, a CreativeCapital Grantee (Theo Westenberger Award) and has been featured in Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces of Independent Film. He is a former Series Producer of POV, a graduate of Hamilton College and the Production Workshop at Third World Newsreel. The Guardian said of his directorial debut "There's something different about Strong Island, however, a film characterized by raw emotion and calm anger, which must surely be considered one of the finest documentaries of 2017 already.”
Mary Harron's debut film, “I Shot Andy Warhol,” was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, and went on to pick up awards at the Sundance, Stockholm and Gijón International Film Festivals. Her 2000 film “American Psycho,” based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis, has become a fervently loved cult favorite.Other credits include the Netflix mini series, “Alias Grace.” She executive produced “The Weather Underground,” a documentary which offered a look at the radical 1970s political organization. Television credits include: Graceland, The Following, Oz, Six Feet Under, Homicide: Life on the Street, The L Word and Big Love. Currently, she is working on a film based on the book Please Kill Me, an oral history of the New York punk scene in which she was a key player. A co-founder of the legendary magazine Punk, she was the first journalist to interview the Sex Pistols for an American outlet.
5% of your donation will go to our fiscal sponsor Roof Top Films.
Donors & Supporters
THANKS TO THE SUPPORTERS BELOW WHO DONATED $150 OR MORE TO OUR KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN!
Thank you to the following folks for supporting our efforts with in-kind donations: Jonathan Lethem, David Shenk, Jonathan Gray, Michael Palms for BAM and the Scripp family, Rachel Esquilin, Bruce Jenkins, Michael Steinman, and of course, Gloria and Junior Mance.