How to Come Alive with Norman Mailer

Director: Jeff Zimbalist

Film Info

  • Year: 2023
  • Film Format: DCP and MP4
  • Runtime: 102 mins
  • Language: In English

Winner - Best Documentary - Atlanta Jewish Film Festival 2024

HOW TO COME ALIVE with Norman Mailer explores the rollercoaster life of America’s most controversial and bestselling author of the 20th Century, Norman Mailer. Propelled by his tremendous ego and contrarian spirit, Mailer’s ceaseless visibility in the public eye lasted 6 decades, during which he had 6 tumultuous marriages, 9 beloved children, 11 bestsellers, 3 arrests, and 2 Pulitzer Prizes. Prophet, hedonist, violent criminal, literary outlaw, and social provocateur, Mailer’s ideas about love, anger, fear, and courage cut to the core of human nature, are more relevant than ever today, and point to a prescription for waking ourselves up, shaking free of society’s expectations, and coming alive as a people.

The first project with full access to Mailer’s family and their archive, the film unearths a treasure trove of intimate and never-before-seen footage, outtakes, audio recordings, and interviews from throughout his life. Mailer lays himself bare, foibles and all. As a lover, fighter, rabble-rouser, and perhaps the last true American public intellectual, he seeks most of all to become a bolder, better human being and encourages us to do the same — to think adventurously, speak fearlessly, and care less about the response... or risk a doomed future.

HOW TO COME ALIVE with Norman Mailer is a Zeitgeist Films release in association with Kino Lorber and opened in theaters on June 28, 2024. To book this film please contact Nancy Gerstman or Emily Russo.

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Jeff Zimbalist

Jeff Zimbalist is a multi-Emmy and Peabody winning filmmaker most known for IDA and Tribeca Film Festival winner FAVELA RISING (HBO), Emmy winner and Cannes Film Festival favorite THE TWO ESCOBARS (ESPN, Disney), Emmy and Tribeca Film Festival winner MOMENTUM GENERATION (HBO, Universal),  PELÉ; BIRTH OF A LEGEND (Magnolia, Universal), the Emmy winning series REMASTERED (Netflix), Emmy nominated THE LINE (Apple), Emmy nominated 11 MINUTES (Paramount+), SUPER LEAGUE; WAR FOR FOOTBALL (Apple), Sundance and Tribeca festival favorite INVISIBLE BEAUTY (Magnolia), and most recently, Sundance hit SKYWALKERS: A LOVE STORY.

“Hits on an ingenious structure that avoids hagiography even as it includes friends and family… What emerges is a portrait of a man as often at war with himself as with his family, friends and countrymen, driven relentlessly toward machismo and always spoiling for a fight... And for those who don’t know his work, it’s a worthy introduction: a study in how not to live, but also in how to come alive.” – Alissa Wilkinson, The New York Times
“Brings Mailer thrillingly to life. He becomes something more than the sum of his parts. What I love about the film is that we get both a sense of the man, his thoughts and his writing. This is an excellent portrait of a man who shaped the time he lived in.” – Steve Kopian, Unseen Films
“Explores the writer’s constant battle against conformity, complacency, and dullness, a struggle that shaped his art and his life... Zimbalist’s invigorating documentary urges his audience to reconsider the challenging ideas that drove Mailer and to find inspiration in living more boldly.” – Wilda Williams, Film Forward
“Captivating... illuminating.” – Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru


Venue City State Date
Laemmle Royal Los Angeles CA JULY 12-18 ONLY!
Laemmle Monica Santa Monica CA OPENS JULY 19!
Belcourt Nashville TN OPENS JULY 19!
Firehouse Cinema Kingston WA OPENS JULY 19!
New Plaza Cinema New York NY JULY 26 & 27 ONLY!
The Lark Larkspur CA OPENS JULY 26!
Roxie Cinema San Francisco CA OPENS JULY 26!
The Palm Theatre San Luis Obispo CA OPENS JULY 26!
The Flicks Boise ID JULY 26 - AUGUST 1
Mariemont Theater Cincinnati OH COMING SOON!
Avon Theater Stamford CT AUGUST 7 ONLY!
Riviera Theater Santa Barbara CA OPENS AUGUST 9!
Triplex Great Barrington MA AUG 9-15 ONLY!
Water's Edge Provincetown MA OPENS AUGUST 9!
Tallahassee Film Society Tallahassee FL AUGUST 24 & 25 ONLY!
Detroit Institute of Art Detroit MI AUG 30-SEPT 1 ONLY!