Sunset and the Mockingbird tells the love story of Gloria Clayborne and legendary jazz pianist Junior Mance. Junior’s illustrious career spans 70 years. He’s worked with all the jazz greats: Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, and Jimmy Scott, to name a few.
Junior met Gloria at a gig in 1997 and they had an instant connection. With five divorces between them, both felt they’d finally met their match, and married exactly one year later. Their shared love of music and adventure made for an ideal partnership and they toured the world together. Junior asked Gloria to be his manager and they formed their own record label which Junior affectionately named JUNGLO.
She wasn’t the woman behind the man, she was right beside him.
Then in 2012, Junior suffered a stroke that led to the onset of dementia. His musical abilities were initially untouched, but his gradual mental and physical decline forced Gloria to take the lead. It was going to be on her alone to keep their personal and professional relationship alive. For the first 6 months, Gloria was a wreck, but she realized that if she didn’t take charge, both of them would be lost.
As Junior’s soulmate and caregiver, Gloria was determined to keep him at home with her. With each new challenge, she found unexpected ways to connect to and love him. As his manager, she didn’t want to risk the chance that he’d "shut down on stage," tarnish the story of his career and potentially feel humiliated. But she feared that if he stopped performing he would lose the will to live. As she delicately and masterfully wound down his career, she discovered that his affliction had ironically gifted him with the belief that he was living in his heyday and performing nightly all over the world. Gloria’s resilience and her ability to adapt to his reality, coupled with Junior’s good spirits–––despite his confabulations and delusions––is a testament to Gloria’s strength, and their relationship.
Sunset and the Mockingbird chronicles the closing of a love story, pure and complicated. For Gloria, it’s about finding ways to love and care for herself and her partner as he loses touch with reality. In doing so, she is compelled to contemplate her own identity and ultimately consider who she will be without him. In Junior, we witness the heart, mind and fingers of a jazz master hold fast to what matters most, and slowly let go of the rest.
For all the messiness of the disease, Gloria and Junior’s relationship – in its enduring depth, complexity, imperfection and connection – offers insights into navigating some of life’s most difficult challenges with love and empathy.
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.
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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.