It's been three years since Dee Rees' observant and beautiful "Pariah," and we've been patiently waiting for her next effort. She's certainly been busy: penning "Large Print," teaming with Viola Davis on a HBO project, lining up the indie romance "This Man, This Woman," and last fall, she even took a leap to sci-fi, signing up to adapt and direct Philip K. Dick’s "Martian Time-Slip." We've heard nothing since then, but it looks like Rees is finally getting back behind the camera, for what sounds like a very promising project.
This summer, Rees will start shooting "Blue Goose Hollow," a biopic about blues legend Bessie Smith, with Queen Latifah in the lead role. The singer is a titan of the genre, who came up through vaudeville shows and became of the leading black performers of her time. Casting is underway, with the part of other blues legend Ma Rainey still to be cast. The project is set up at HBO, and it's one we'll be keeping an eye on for 2015. [Shadow & Act]
Moving in a completely different direction, Roland Emmerich has snapped up the rights to John Coe Robbins' book "Maya Lord" to develop into a feature film. The story follows "Gonzalo Guerrero, who was shipwrecked in a violent storm in 1511, and found himself cast away on an unknown shore in the New World. He and his Spaniard shipmates were enslaved by a Mayan tribe. With no hope of escape, the brilliant and pragmatic adventurer searches for a way to advance in a strange new culture. As one of the captives eventually joins Cortes in the conquest of Mexico, Gonzalo adopts Maya ways and rises to become a major warlord, defending the Maya against Cortes and other Spanish conquistadors. Guerrero, who married the daughter of a Maya chieftain, is generally regarded in Mexico as the father of the first Mestizo family." Emmerich's next film is the gay rights feature "Stonewall," and then probably that "Independence Day" sequel, so this is a far way away. [Deadline]
"West Of Memphis" director Amy Berg has had a busy spring. She just debuted her feature film effort "Every Secret Thing" at the Tribeca Film Festival, it was revealed that she has a Hollywood sex abuse doc in the works that is linked to the Bryan Singer accusations, and now it's revealed she has another doc on her slate. "Janis: Little Girl Blue" will attempt to strip away Janis Joplin's rock ‘n’ roll persona to reveal the gentle, trusting, innocent, but powerful woman behind the legend, in the quintessential story of the short, turbulent and epic existence that changed music forever. The finished doc will premiere in the U.S. as part of PBS' "American Masters" series.