Christopher Reeve's Son Recalls Dad's 'Incredible' Oscars Appearance After Paralyzing Accident (Exclusive)

Matthew Reeve spoke to PEOPLE on Sunday during the premiere of 'Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story' at the Sundance Film Festival

Christopher Reeve’s appearance at the Academy Awards in 1996 is one eldest son Matthew Reeve will never forget.

At the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday, the 44-year-old reflected on the emotional moment his father received a minutes-long standing ovation at the ceremony as he returned for the first time after his horse accident.

<p>Getty Images; TIM CLARY/AFP via Getty Images</p>

Getty Images; TIM CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

“I remember I was in London, it was a school night and we stayed up until three or four in the morning to watch it. And it was absolutely incredible,” Matthew told PEOPLE in an exclusive chat at the premiere of the documentary Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story.

“And what sticks with me most was after that incredible warm welcome and that very long ovation that he received, his introduction — he followed it up with a wonderful speech about how cinema and movies are at their best when they not only entertain, but they inform and educate and address issues," Matthew continues.

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Related: Will Reeve Remembers Late Dad Christopher Reeve on Father's Day: He 'Gave Me Everything'

He recalls that "they showed clips from a bunch of films," like "Coming Home, and Terms of Endearment and films that really address important human issues and made a call to action that Hollywood do more to do that."

“So that's always stuck with me," Matthew tells PEOPLE. "And that's why also I feel like here, at Sundance, that's what they do and that's what they live for."

Back in March 1996, Christopher was met with a standing ovation at the Oscars as he took to the stage in his first public appearance after his horse accident the year prior, which left him paralyzed from the neck down.

The actor appeared emotional at the reaction of the audience — which included Tom Hanks, John Travolta, Meryl Streep, Jim Carrey and Nicholas Cage — as a curtain raised to reveal him onstage in a wheelchair, before introducing a film montage of Hollywood films tackling social issues.

Now, 20 years after Christopher's death, comes the documentary Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story, which recounts the legendary film career of the Superman actor and the aftermath of his paralysis following the 1995 equestrian accident.

<p>Stefan Schnoor/Shutterstock</p> Matthew Reeve with late father Christopher Reeve in Germany on Oct. 22, 2003

Stefan Schnoor/Shutterstock

Matthew Reeve with late father Christopher Reeve in Germany on Oct. 22, 2003

Reeve’s three children Matthew, Alexandra and Will Reeve feature in the film as they reflect on their father's recovery after the spinal injury, and were also in attendance at the Sundance premiere on Sunday.

Filmmakers Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui worked closely with the Reeve siblings to glean a more complex understanding of Christopher’s legacy, his character and his family’s role in his recovery for the project.

Through weaving back and forth in time, the filmmakers also examined two key moments in Christopher’s life: his casting as Clark Kent in 1978’s Superman and the life-changing injury that left him quadriplegic in 1995.

<p>Michael Loccisano/Getty Images</p> Matthew, Alexandra and Will Reeve during the premiere of <em>Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story</em> at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 21, 2024

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Matthew, Alexandra and Will Reeve during the premiere of Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 21, 2024

Related: Google Honors Late 'Superman' Actor Christopher Reeve with Doodle Commemorating His Birthday

Described as a "retrospective biopic" by the directors at the premiere, the film includes extensive personal behind-the-scenes footage and audio clips from the late actor as his experience before, during, and after the accident is showcased.

The love story between Christopher and his wife Dana is also shared, along with his first partner, Gae Exton, who is the mother of his two oldest children, Matthew and Alexandra.

When Christopher died in 2004 from cardiac arrest, the Reeve family established a foundation in his name. Two years later, his wife Dana died from lung cancer. William, Alexandra and Matthew now serve on the board of directors for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, dedicated to research on curing spinal cord injury. 

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