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Isaiah Washington As Oscar Micheaux In JD Walker's 'Becoming Oscar Micheaux'?

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by Tambay A. Obenson
August 23, 2013 12:29 PM
13 Comments
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Isaiah Washington

Words from Mr Isaiah Washington on Twitter last night, further confirmed by writer/director JD Walker, who also sent a message on Twitter, sharing that the project was in the works.

I'm still waiting to learn more from the filmmaker, so when I do, so will you.

It's actually quite amazing to me that Oscar Micheaux has yet to be properly celebrated on screen in a biopic, given what the man was able to accomplish, during the period in which he lived. There's a fascinating story here that I think would make for a great film (with the right talents involved, of course), and it would also serve as an introduction (or maybe I should say re-introduction) of Micheaux to a world that I feel hasn't really recognized him and his efforts.

In talking to young filmmakers today (black filmmakers specifically), you'd think Spike Lee was the first African American filmmaker.

There has been at least one documentary - I'm thinking of Midnight Ramble: Oscar Micheaux and the Story of Race Movies (1994), which was a documentary whose title refers to the early 20th-century practice of some segregated cinemas of screening films for African American audiences only at matinees and midnight. The documentary was produced by Pamela Thomas, directed by Pearl Bowser and Bestor Cram, and written by Clyde Taylor. It was first aired on PBS' The American Experience in 1994, and released in 2004.

There's also an upcoming project - another documentary, titled Oscar's Comeback, directed by Lisa Collins.

Producers' Lab participant selected for the IFP's 2011 Project Forum program... the synopsis reads: 

An all-white town. Its black native son. Worlds collide. Witness the melodrama and hijinks fueling the annual Oscar Micheaux Film Festival in GregorySouth DakotaWitness the melodrama and culture collision behind-the-scenes of a unique, annual mom-and-pop film festival held in the struggling, all-white small-town of Gregory, South Dakota. From historical reenactments to heated debates to ‘corporate’ take-over, it’s an everything-goes five-day event dedicated to their most famous ‘native son’ -- the largely forgotten, controversial, early 1900s black film pioneer, Oscar Micheaux (1884 – 1951); known to some as the “Godfather of Independent Cinema”. Shot over the span of 7 summers -- and following the two fiery heads of the fest who take on an ambitious benefactor -- Oscar’s Comeback charts the rise, fall and transformation of the teetering festival. Both serious and entertaining, the film takes a look at outsiderism, smalltown pride, race relations today, and what it means to be a true independent fighting against the odds -- all through the prism of Oscar Micheaux, whose restless spirit has come back ‘home’ to inspire another button-pushing tale.

So, essentially, a festival celebrating a black man in an all-white town, and the ups and downs experienced by the pair of organizers (who are both white) in putting the event together. I'm guessing there are some in this all-white town that aren't too keen on this annual event celebrating this "notorious, complex Negro," to borrow from Wendell B. Harris' words in Chameleon Street.

And it was shot over 7 summers; that's good! It should therefore give the viewer a thorough profile of the festival, the town and the people who live there.

I'm most certainly curious about this upcoming project from Lisa Collins.

Most recently, it was awarded a TAA Marketing & Web Fellowship at the Tribeca Film Institute's 10th Annual Tribeca All Access (TAA) Creative Promise Awards, earlier this year.

So it looks like it's well on its way.

There are 3 clips of the work-in-progress, but I can't embed them. You can watch them on the filmmaker's website HERE.

Now we wait to learn more about this new biopic - Becoming Oscar Micheaux - from director JD Walker and star Isaiah Washington, an actor who's been on something of a roll in the last 12 months.

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13 Comments

  • Micheaux Team | August 23, 2013 7:20 PMReply

    Great publicity! Thanks. Here's the website for the Oscar Micheaux feature film, which has not begun official casting or made official announcements yet. The script is indeed being sent out to potential cast, however, as of yesterday. You can find the feature film at Oscar Micheaux Movie dot com. xoxo!!!

  • Donella | August 24, 2013 11:47 AM

    Looks like people are really eager for this project! I confess that I am too.

  • nadia | August 24, 2013 8:37 AM

    So you're saying that Isaiah cast himself in a project that he hasn't been cast in yet, and he announced it publicly? Lol.

  • Pam | August 23, 2013 7:14 PMReply

    Imagine my surprise in literally stumbling onto this info. All I can say is - It's about time! Over the years, several attempts have been made to bring Micheaux's story to the silver screen and the stage. Hopefully, this film will succeed where others have failed.

    MIDNIGHT RAMBLE took 10 years to make, from an idea in my head to the finished product on PBS. From the beginning I became obsessed with Micheaux and am still appalled at the ignorance of our young people about our 'race movie' history, our cinematic contributions as Black Americans and the amount of Micheaux mis-information still perpetrated.

    Needless to say, I'm very excited about this film and am looking forward to Isaiah Washington's portrayal. Brilliant, spot-on casting of Washington.

  • JD | August 23, 2013 7:47 PM

    Hi, Pam! Where can I email you? I was trying to reach you today!! Thanks. info@oscarmicheauxmovie.com

  • CareyCarey | August 23, 2013 2:35 PMReply

    Well, I've actually had very long conversations with the director of the annual Oscar Micheaux Film Festival in Gregory, South Dakota. He sent me a few hard-to-find copies of Micheaux's films and several past programs. He also shared some of the struggles of the festival, which, oddly, did not include an alleged "cooperate" take-over. He did mention money woes because it is basically a one man operation.

    He also said he was getting old-er, and so, he didn't know how much more gas he had in his tank. Btw, he is not the originator of the event. I believe he's actually the second person to run the festival. We talked about how he got involved, so it would be nice to see how that's portrayed in Lisa Collins' documentary. Anyway, the only "beef" he shared with me concerned the natives of that region, American Indians. Well, I am not going to divulge what that was about, but again, I'd like to see how it's played out on the screen.

    In reference to Isaih Washington playing Oscar Micheaux, Tambay's following words caught my eye:

    "It's actually quite amazing to me that Oscar Micheaux has yet to properly celebrated on screen in a biopic, given what the man was able to accomplish, during the period in which he lived"

    Well, unknown to many, Oscar Micheaux, although considered by many as the "Godfather of "BLACK" Independent Cinema, he was not the darling of many in the black community, especially the *coughsnobscough* and *coughcriticalfilmwatchingcough* crowd. Think of the reactions by some black folks when the names Kingfish and Amos & Andy are mentioned, there goes the beef many had with Oscar Micheaux. You know, the old arguments in the battle of Burden Of Representation vs Art.

    As was mentioned, many of Micheaux' s films dealt with "race" issues, consequently, championing Oscar Micheaux can be a very slippery slope, for both whites and blacks. But of special note, as with this festival, white folks have been the leading force behind keeping his name alive. In fact, the gentleman behind the Gregory festival was also instrumental in getting Micheaux's image on a U.S. Postal Stamp. Now we have a black director, Lisa Collins doing a documentary with the help of a few white people... co-directed by Mark Schwartzburt, and executive produced by Lisa Cortes and Stephen Winter.

    So it will be interesting to see what Isaiah Washington and Ms. JD Walker pull together.

  • IGBO | August 23, 2013 1:50 PMReply

    FYI: Danny Glover also portrayed him in the 1981 short docudrama, "Oscar Micheaux, Film Pioneer."

  • Ronnie D. | August 23, 2013 1:13 PMReply

    @Tambay
    In need of an editor much? #Isaiah Washington lol #wouldbecalledracistifawhitepersonhadmadethisdumbbuthilariouserror

  • naysayer | August 23, 2013 1:03 PMReply

    never gonna happen

  • Donella | August 23, 2013 12:48 PMReply

    Coincidentally, I just watched Isaiah Thomas in David Talbert's Suddenly Single stage play. I'm always glad for the chance for actors to work, but throughout the movie I kept thinking, Thomas deserves the best material to perform.

    So I'm really glad to see this project in the works.

  • Donella | August 23, 2013 1:05 PM

    Okay, you got me. Isaiah Washington.

  • say what | August 23, 2013 1:02 PM

    IsaiahThomas? Glad he found a good post NBA career.

  • Donella | August 23, 2013 12:44 PMReply

    This is why I'm glad for the glut of historical works on the Black experience lately. There is much educating of the whole world to be done on lost, distorted, and deliberately ignored parts of history.

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