Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: Misty Copeland Series 'I Will What I Want' Directed by Sheldon Candis ('Luv') Watch: Misty Copeland Series 'I Will What I Want' Directed by Sheldon Candis ('Luv') OWN Will Explore One of America's Most Exclusive & Historically Significant African American Beach Communities in 'Sag Harbor' OWN Will Explore One of America's Most Exclusive & Historically Significant African American Beach Communities in 'Sag Harbor' Teaser for 'Jurassic World' (4th Movie in Mega Franchise) Surfaces Teaser for 'Jurassic World' (4th Movie in Mega Franchise) Surfaces Watch Trailer For Controversial Artist Kara Walker’s Film ‘An Audience’ Watch Trailer For Controversial Artist Kara Walker’s Film ‘An Audience’ Watch Trailer for 'Storms of Carnage: The Black Panther Unleashed Part 2' (A Fan-Made Film) Watch Trailer for 'Storms of Carnage: The Black Panther Unleashed Part 2' (A Fan-Made Film) Rumorville - This Actor Just May Be in Contention to Play Apocalypse in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Rumorville - This Actor Just May Be in Contention to Play Apocalypse in 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Watch Uncomfortable Interview Bill Cosby Gave to AP on Rape Allegations Watch Uncomfortable Interview Bill Cosby Gave to AP on Rape Allegations  Toni Morrison Breaks Down Race as a Social Construct to Stephen Colbert Toni Morrison Breaks Down Race as a Social Construct to Stephen Colbert Viola Davis, Phylicia Rashad, Laurence Fishburne Will Celebrate August Wilson in PBS Special Viola Davis, Phylicia Rashad, Laurence Fishburne Will Celebrate August Wilson in PBS Special Review: 'Seasons of Love' Might Be Yet Another Train Wreck of a Ratings Bonanza for Lifetime Review: 'Seasons of Love' Might Be Yet Another Train Wreck of a Ratings Bonanza for Lifetime Wow! BBC Announces That Idris Elba Will Return for a 2-Part 'Luther' Event Series in 2015 Wow! BBC Announces That Idris Elba Will Return for a 2-Part 'Luther' Event Series in 2015 Lupita Nyong'o Will Star in Mira Nair's 'Queen of Katwe' Film Adaptation (On Ugandan Chess Prodigy Phiona Mutesi) Lupita Nyong'o Will Star in Mira Nair's 'Queen of Katwe' Film Adaptation (On Ugandan Chess Prodigy Phiona Mutesi) Whoa! Steve McQueen & Harry Belafonte Are Teaming Up on a Paul Robeson Film. Will Be His Next Feature Whoa! Steve McQueen & Harry Belafonte Are Teaming Up on a Paul Robeson Film. Will Be His Next Feature White People Don't Get It Because They Never Had to White People Don't Get It Because They Never Had to Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Woody Allen Says He Won’t Hire a Black Actor Unless the Role Calls for One... Whatever That Means Co-Screenwriter of 'Noah' Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film Co-Screenwriter of 'Noah' Explains Why There Are No Black People Or POC In The Film Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Aaron McGruder Finally Explains Why He Left 'The Boondocks' Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Lifetime Launches New Series Set In Elite World Of Hip-Hop Majorette Competitions (Watch Preview) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Netflix Explains Why It Doesn't Always Have That Film Or TV Show You Really Want To See (Video) Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie... Tichina Arnold Says She Talked To Martin Lawrence About Doing A 'Martin' Movie...

Which Of These 5 Film Projects Based On Martin Luther King Jr's Life Will We See First? What's Holding Them Up?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act January 16, 2012 at 10:15AM

On this Martin Luther King Jr day, January 16th 2012...
2
MLK

On this Martin Luther King Jr day, January 16th 2012...

As far as we know, there are at least 5 film projects in the works based on either the life of MLK, or some significant period during his 39 years on this planet; most recently announced, the Paul Greengrass-directed MLK assassination pic, Memphis, which was once a sure-thing, but the studio backing it, Universal Pictures, later backed out of financing and distributing the film; word on the street was that pressure from the MLK estate to call off the project, because they were unhappy with the script, was one of the reasons.

The film, which was supposed to focus on the events leading up to King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, while he was trying to organize the city’s sanitation workers in spring of 1968, was to begin shooting last summer, for an early 2012 release. Obviously, that's not happening.

The other MLK projects in the works include, of course, Lee Daniels’ Selma (currently in limbo, due to financing issues, as well as the very same reasons Greengrass' project has stalled - the King estate being unhappy with the script); then there's Oprah’s HBO miniseries (should be a go, expected in 2012), the Steven Spielberg/DreamWorks project that has the backing of King’s estate (likely will also push forward; after all it's Spielberg and Dreamworks), and Wesley Snipes’ planned exploration of J. Edgar Hoover’s campaign to discredit MLK, and the fallout that followed, titled Code Name Zorro (he's still in prison, right? So, I wouldn't be looking for this one anytime soon).

But going back to reasons for the delays in MLK projects from Greengrass and Daniels... some may recall my post on Stokely Carmichael's, aka Kwame Ture's inisistence on depicting virtues versus virces in filmic representations of real-life people (like MLK).

As noted, one of the reasons for the holdup in the production of those 2 rather high-profile MLK film projects - both which would (reportedly) emphasize MLK's vices, and not just revel in hagiography - was Andrew Young's objections - the civil rights activist, member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) during the 60s Civil Rights Movement, a supporter and good friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., who played a key role in the events in Birmingham, Alabama, was a strategist and negotiator that influenced the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. And also, he was with MLK in Memphis, Tennessee, when he was assassinated in 1968.

Young reportedly objected to scripts which included scenes of marital infidelity during MLK's final days, among other "vices."

Some might express concern for the play currently on Broadway (The Mountaintop, with Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett starring) that "humanizes" MLK, as the plays stars have said in interviews they've done marketing the production.

Kwame Ture suggested that Hollywood peddles vice as entertainment, and he obviously has a problem with that.

Obviously, there are those of us who prefer that films/projects like the above, about these iconic figures of history should essentially canonize them, or at least, as Kwame Ture notes, focus on their virtues and not their vices. And there are those who feel that a warts and all depiction "humanizes" them, making their achievements more accessible to those of us who hold them in such high regard.

I think this also ties in very nicely with our ongoing discussions about the "burden of representation" some expect black public figures to carry and others don't; or more specifically, the battle between "positive" and "negative" portrayals of black people on screen.

I haven't heard much about what Spielberg's or Oprah's MLK projects comtain in terms of content; given that both seem to be near-sure-things (especially the Spielberg project which has the backing of the King estate); I can only assume that both of those projects are, shall we say, more wholesome, family-friendly tellings of MLK's life.

But, thus far, none of the projects mentioned above is in production, as far as I know, so, anything's possible; let's see which of these makes it first to the finish line.

This article is related to: Things That Make You Go Hmm...


Shadow & ActNewsletter