It's not the Mahalia Jackson film that Euzhan Palcy was all set to direct, with Fantasia Barrino starring - a project that I'd say is likely dead, after Jackson's family reportedly had second thoughts about Fantasia playing the part.
This Mahalia Jackson project comes from screenwriter/director and college professor at Columbia College in Chicago, Vaun Monroe and Chicago filmmaker Ruth L Ratny, for Joyful Noise, LLC.
Further details based on the information I received, in brief...
It'll be based on Mahalia’s seminal biography, Just Mahalia, Baby, which is the source for most of the information publicly available about the gospel diva’s life and music. It was authored by Mahalia’s friend, Laurraine Goreau, a distinguished New Orleans writer and editor, who had access to a lifetime of Mahalia memorabilia.
The filmmakers are hoping to eventually attract the $20 million in funding that will be necessary to make the kind of film that they believe Jackson deserves, and say that a small percentage of that figure has already been raised.
The film will be shot in Chicago, and has the support of the mayor, civic, business and church leaders.
In the film, the singer rises through faith from her scrubwoman’s knees, to become the world’s greatest gospel singer, taking gospel out of churches into the mainstream throughout the world, including becoming the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall, and the riches, fame and love that had previously eluded her, all come.
In addition to fundraising, the film is currently casting, as Ratny and Monroe believe that the industry current climate which has seen a number of biopics (especially biopics based on the lives of black public personalities) produced, only bodes well for their chances on their Mahalia Jackson story. That, and also what might be considered a surge in commitment to catering to the faith-market.
I should add that Jackson was most recently featured in the documentary titled Rejoice And Shout, a film covered on Shadow And Act, which the filmmakers called the DEFINITIVE history of Gospel music, directed by Don McGlynn.
The film traces the history of gospel music from its beginnings on Southern plantations and Baptist churches to national prominence. Featuring a wealth of archival footage of legendary gospel acts such as Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The Staples Singers, and several others.
The filmmakers of this new Mahalia Jackson scripted film, are aiming for a late 2014 release - with Christmas being ideal, with good reason.