Since signing the Akils to a multi-year development deal a couple of years ago (a move that's proven to be fruitful), the network has made a few acquisitions that immediately drew my attention, notably, most recently, boarding veteran Canadian filmmaker Clement Virgo's upcoming adaptation of The Book of Negroes.
Today, the network has announced that it is partnering with Relativity Media to produce writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood's next feature, Blackbird.
This pairing marks the very first collaboration between BET and Relativity, and possibly not the last.
"Relativity is always looking to work with creative and original companies like BET Networks. We are excited to have them on board for Blackbird,” said Tucker Tooley, president of Relativity Media, in a press statement.
Loretha Jones, President of Original Programming and News for BET, added: “BET Networks is excited to partner for the first time ever with film and television studio, Relativity Media to create a film that matches the high-quality caliber production expected by our viewers. BET Networks looks forward to the first of many collaborations and sharing the final production on the big screen with our U.S and African audiences via its theatrical release.”
Bythewood began pre-production on Blackbird in July - a film that's described as a love story set in the music world, which stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nate Parker and Danny Glover.
Stephanie Allain is producing and The-Dream is creating all the original music for film, which will be choreographed by Laurieann Gibson.
The film's official synopsis reads:
Blackbird is the story of Noni Jean, a hot new artist who has just won a Grammy and is primed for stardom. But the pressures of success compel her to nearly end her life until she is saved by a young police officer. They fall hard for each other, despite the protests of their parents who want each to focus on their own career ambitions. But he might be the missing piece to unlock her artistic potential.
Relativity president Tucker Tooley is exec producing with Matt Alvarez and Reggie Bythewood.
Blackbird will be released theatrically by Relativity, and then have an exclusive television premiere in the U.S. and South Africa on BET.
Worth noting, this will be the second film by a black filmmaker, with a black cast, with the title Blackbird, currently in production. Patrik-Ian Polk's 5th feature film, which stars Isaiah Washington, is also titled Blackbird.
This will be Bythewood's first feature film directorial effort since 2008's The Secret Life of Bees.