1 – From director Tim Sutton and producer John Baker comes the feature film “Memphis,” which made its world premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
The film, immersed in ethereal folklore, surrealism 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.
Longer description: A strange singer with “god given talent” drifts through the mythic city of Memphis under its canopy of ancient oak trees, shattered windows, and burning spirituality. Surrounded by lovers, legends, hustlers, preachers, and a wolfpack of kids, the unstable performer avoids the recording studio and is driven to spend time in his own form of self-discovery. Shown in fragments, his journey drags him from love and happiness right to the edge of another dimension.
The cast includes singular Chicago artist and musician Willis Earl Beal (in the poster above; he also scored the film), Lopaka Thomas, Constance Brantley, Devonte Hull, John Gary Williams, and Larry Dodson.
Trailer for the film embedded below.
A new documentary from Passion Pictures, the executive producer of the critically-acclaimed “Searching for Sugar Man,” and “The Imposter,” which is centered on the recorded conversations of Ali.
Titled “I Am Ali, “and financed by NBC Universal, the film is directed by Clare Lewins, and is told through exclusive, unprecedented access to Ali’s personal archive of ‘audio journals’ combined with touching interviews and testimonials from his inner circle of family and friends, including his daughters, sons, ex-wife and brother, plus legends of the boxing community including Mike Tyson, George Foreman and Gene Kilroy.
Executive producer John Battsek (who claims “When We Were Kings” was an inspiration) said about the doc: “It’s a film built around phone conversations that Ali recorded for many years with his family. That’s the spine of the film. It’s a very personal perspective on Ali, from Ali – in a way – through a 20-year period of his life when he was still fighting.”
While Ali himself isn’t directly involved in the project, he’s certainly aware of it.
Other recent Ali-related docs include “The Trials Of Muhammad Ali,” from Kartemquin Films, which takes a look at Ali’s battle to overturn the five-year prison sentence he received for refusing US military service during the Vietnam War; and Stephen Frears’ “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight,” which examines the same case, but from the POV of the Supreme Court. Both are on DVD now.
Watch the trailer for “I Am Ali” below:
3 – Omar Sy co-stars in “Good People,” directed by Danish filmmaker Henrik Genz (“Terribly Happy”), his English-language debut.
4 – “Forgotten Four: The Integration of Pro Football” is an EPIX Original Documentary, narrated by Jeffrey Wright. It tells the little-known story of 4 outstanding and brave African American men – Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Marion Motley and Bill Willis – who broke the color barrier in pro football in 1946, one year before Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey were credited with integrating Major League Baseball.
The hardships and triumphs of the Forgotten Four are told through the recollections of their families and those who have researched these pioneers. Those interviewed include Forgotten Four family members: Tony Motley (Marion Motley’s grandson), Mike Brown (Paul Brown’s son), Clem and William Willis, Jr. (Bill Willis’ sons), Karin L. Cohen (Kenny Washington’s daughter) and Kalai Strode (Woody Strode’s son).
An all-star lineup of football legends also shares their insights, including: Don Shula (Hall of Fame coach who also played for the Cleveland Browns), Bob Gain, Sherman Howard, Jim Hardy (Los Angeles Rams) and George Taliaferro (Indiana University). Participating writers/historians include Joe Horrigan (Pro Football Hall of Fame), Lonnie G. Bunch (National Museum of African American History and Culture), Khalil Gibran Muhammad (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture), Jarrett Bell (USA Today) and Brad Pye, Jr. (Los Angeles Sentinel).
Watch the trailer below:
5 – “The Watsons Go To Birmingham,” a Hallmark Channel Original Movie produced Tonya Lewis Lee, is a film adaptation of the historical fiction novel of the same name by Christopher Paul Curtis.
Directed by Kenny Leon (Lifetime’s “Steel Magnolias” remake), the film’s cast includes: Anika Noni Rose, David Alan Grier, Skai Jackson, LaTanya Richardson, Wood Harris, Bryce Jenkins, Pauletta Washington and Harrison Knight.
Co-produced by Nikki Silver, “The Watsons Go To Birmingham” centers on an African American family living in the town of Flint, Michigan, who visit their grandmother’s home in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, a turbulent time during the civil rights movement.
“Set in the Summer of 1963, Flint, Michigan is home to the Watsons, a close knit “All American Family” made up of Daniel and Wilona Watson (Harris and Rose) and their three kids, 15 year-old juvenile delinquent Byron (Knight), nerdy 11 year-old Kenny (Jenkins) and eight year-old adorable sister Joetta (Jackson). When Byron’s antics go over the top, his parents realize enough is enough and they decide the family needs a dose of Grandma Sands (Richardson) no nonsense approach in Birmingham, Alabama. So the Watsons load up the 1948 Plymouth Brown Bomber outfitted with a true tone Ultra-Glide turntable and head South with plenty of comedy en route. When they finally make it to Birmingham, they meet Grandma Sands and her friend, Mr. Robert (Grier), who show them around town, and the Watsons discover that life is very different there than in Flint – and not necessarily for the better. During that historic summer, the Watsons find themselves caught up in something far bigger than Byron’s antics. Something that will change their lives and country forever.”
What they get “caught up in” is the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in September, 1963, which proved to be one of the pivotal events of that year in the fight for civil rights.
The book was Christopher Paul Curtis’ first novel, and it received a Newbery Honor, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Golden Kite Award.
The project is part of “Walmart and P&G Present Walden Family Theater,” a new series of family movies created by Walmart, P&G, Walden Media and ARC Entertainment.
Trailer is below: