Vietnamese-American director directs ‘We Are the World’ documentary

By Que Chi   January 20, 2024 | 08:00 pm PT
Vietnamese-American director directs ‘We Are the World’ documentary
Artists featured in the 'We Are the World' performance. Photo courtesy of Netflix
"The Greatest Night in Pop" by award-winning director Bao Nguyen documents 46 of the biggest names in music coming together to record “We Are the World.”

According to Deadline, the documentary revolves around the historic moment on Jan. 25, 1985, when 46 music legends gathered in a Los Angeles studio to record the song "We Are the World," the sales’ proceeds of which were to be donated to African famine relief programs.

Offering a unique perspective with never-before-seen footage and interviews featuring artists who participated in the recording, the documentary chronicles the early planning stages, from the song’s writing sessions with Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, to the recording session’s memorable night at the famed Henson studio.

Viewers gain insights from key figures present, including Richie, Bruce Springsteen, Smokey Robinson, Cyndi Lauper, Kenny Loggins, Dionne Warwick, and Huey Lewis, as well as the engineers and production crew who transformed the ambitious project into a reality.

Produced by Julia Nottingham, Richie, Bruce Eskowitz, Larry Klein, Harriet Sternberg, and George Hencken, with executive producers Angus Wall, Amit Dey, and Becky Read, the documentary premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on the 19th and is set for a global debut on Netflix on the 29th of this month.

"This story starts with a call from Harry Belafonte [to Lionel Ritchie]," Director Bao Nguyen told Tudum, referring to when the late singer and activist first expressed his idea to have a benefit concert, an idea that evolved into recording a song, with the biggest stars of the moment.

"Think about how that has reverberated, even again 40 years later, to a song that most people around the world still sing," Nguyen said.

"We Are The World," co-written by Jackson and Richie and produced by Quincy Jones and Michael Omartian, aimed to aid victims of the African famine between 1983 and 1985.

According to the Independent, the song sold 20 million copies, raising over 63 million USD for humanitarian aid. It also earned four Grammy Awards and an American Music Award. Lionel Richie, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, revealed that the original group of organizers seized the opportunity to record the song when all the singers were in Los Angeles for the American Music Awards ceremony, requiring the song to be written in a two-week sprint.

Bao Nguyen graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international relations from New York University (US) and a master's degree in Documentary Film from The School of Visual Arts, also in New York. His previous works include the documentary "Once in a Lullaby," which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012, and "Live from New York!," which screened at the same festival three years later.

His film "Be Water," a 2020 documentary about Bruce Lee, earned a nomination in the Outstanding Research: Documentary category at the 2021 Emmy Awards.

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