From director Tim Sutton and producer John Baker comes the feature film Memphis – a project S&A has been tracking since it was one revealed to be 1 of 3 projects that would proceed to the second phase of the Biennale College – Cinema, in February of this year (a workshop that makes it possible to actually make a mini-budget film, with funding of 150,000 euro each).
The 3 projects, each being either debut features or sophomore works, were chosen at the end of the first workshop, shortlisted from 15 previously selected projects from all over the world.
Skip ahead to this month’s 2014 lineup of films announced by the Sundance Film Festival, amongst which I came across Memphis once again, listed as a World Premiere.
The film, immersed in ethereal folklore and soul music, follows the transformation of Ezra Jack from beloved soul singer to “ecstatic contemplator,” providing a look at a man who achieves obscurity in the hope of finding salvation and rebirth.
Here’s Sundance’s description:
A strange singer drifts through the mythic city of Memphis, surrounded by beautiful women, legendary musicians, a stone-cold hustler, a righteous preacher, and a wolf pack of kids. Under a canopy of ancient oak trees and burning spirituality, his doomed journey breaks from conformity and reaches out for glory.
The cast includes Chicago artist and musician Willis Earl Beal (above photo) Lopaka Thomas, Constance Brantley, Devonte Hull, John Gary Williams, and Larry Dodson.
Believing Ezra Jack to be a real-life person, I looked him up but the only Ezra Jack I found was Ezra Jack Keats, a white author and illustrator of mostly children’s books, who is maybe best known as the author/illustrator of the 1962 children’s book, The Snowy Day, which is said to be one of the first of such books, in full color, to feature the first African American protagonist.
Ezra Jack Keats said he was inspired to do this because…
“None of the manuscripts I’d been illustrating featured any black kids—except for token blacks in the background. My book would have him there simply because he should have been there all along.”
Keats further wrote in an unpublished autobiography (portions of which have been printed in various publications since the author’s death in 1983):
“After The Snowy Day was published, many, many people thought I was black… As a matter of fact, many were disappointed that I wasn’t!”
Now, I don’t have any information that suggests that Sutton’s Memphis feature film is in any way inspired or connected to this Ezra Jack, or if they have absolutely nothing to do with one another, and it’s all just a coincidence. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the potential tie-ins.
The film is now set to make its world premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival next month.
Check out the poetic trailer I found online below: