Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President to chart Carter's rise via music, with live performance footage of Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin, more.

By Joey Nolfi
February 17, 2020 at 10:00 AM EST

The 2020 Tribeca Film Festival has elected its opening night film.

Kicking off an annual edition that promises projects that celebrate the power of change through art and politics, Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President will launch the Manhattan-based festival’s 19th edition with a world-premiere screening at the Beacon Theatre on April 15. The screening will be followed by performances by Willie Nelson, Paul Shaffer, and others.

Directed by Grammy-winning documentarian Mary Wharton (Sam Cooke: Legend), Rock & Roll President outlines the role popular music had in giving Jimmy Carter’s campaign a distinct edge in the 1976 election.

In addition to featuring intimate interviews with Carter, the film also includes live-performance footage from Nelson, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Buffett, and Paul Simon, among other artists spanning the former president’s affinity for folk, soul, jazz, gospel, and rock.

“The film accurately captures my love for all music and the important music has played in my personal life,” President Carter said of the film, which has yet to announce a distributor or release date, in a press statement. “I remain hopeful that music can serve to bring us together as a nation. [My wife] Rosalynn and I are pleased with the fine film Mary and [producer Chris Farrell] have made and thank all of those involved for telling this story. We are thrilled that it will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival.”

Carter and Nelson have remained friends for decades, working together on various projects — including a 2004 CMT special — throughout the years.

“I think that was one of the reasons I won, because I did align myself with characters like these, who were admired by hundreds of millions around the world,” Carter previously told EW of his decision to associate his campaign with figures like Nelson and Bob Dylan. “I think as much as any performer who has ever lived, Willie has had an intimate and natural relationship with working people…. When I was in trouble in the White House or needed to be alone, just to relax — I’m a fly fisherman, and I would tie flies in my study, where Truman used to work, while Willie Nelson’s songs played on the hi-fi…. So all the good things I did or, of course, all the mistakes I’ve made, you could kind of blame half that on Willie.”

The 2020 Tribeca Film Festival runs April 15-26, with passes and packages available now. More projects joining this year’s lineup will be announced throughout the weeks ahead.

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