Oscar-winning documentary director Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence) and Craig Piligian’s Pilgrim Media are teaming to develop High on the Hog, a docuseries chronicling African American history through the lens of food, based on Dr. Jessica B. Harris’ book High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America.
The book, published in 2011 by Bloomsbury, sets out to document the African Diaspora from a culinary perspective; the potential multi-part series traces the moving story of a people’s survival and triumph via the food that has knit together generations and helped define the American kitchen. It’s described as a culinary journey that stretches from Africa to enslavement, emancipation, the Harlem Renaissance, the march for Civil Rights, and up to the present day, and will explore the food and tastes that have profoundly impacted the American palate, and helped shape the country’s relationship with food, music, art and culture.
The project was conceived by Williams, Piligian and producers Karis Jagger and Fabienne Toback, who initially optioned the book and brought the project to Pilgrim.
“I’m excited to be working with Fabienne and Karis and the team at Pilgrim to showcase a whole new way of looking at African-American history—through food. Just as exciting: these inspiring stories will be told by the emerging stars of a new Black foodie movement,” said Williams.
High on the Hog is a co-production from Pilgrim Media Group and Roger Ross Williams Productions. Williams and his producing partner Geoff Martz executive produce via Roger Ross Williams Productions. Piligian and Sarba Das, vice president, documentaries, for Pilgrim Media Group, executive produce for Pilgrim, alongside producers Jagger and Toback.
“All of us at Pilgrim are honored to work with Roger Ross Williams, whose artistry and vision will bring to this series the depth and gravitas it warrants; and Karis and Fabienne, who embody the spirit of this inspiring project. We are eager to share our collaborative creative with the marketplace,” said Piligian.
“We see this series as part of empowerment cinema, as it introduces us to people deeply woven into the fabric of our nation’s food, whose story needs a deeper telling. Ultimately, this is not just an African American story; it’s an American story,” added Jagger and Toback in a joint statement.
Williams is the first African-American director to win an Oscar for his Music By Prudence, which won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject). He has been on the Board of Governors for the Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences since 2016 and serves as the chair of both the Documentary Branch and the Diversity Committee. Williams’ God Loves Uganda was shortlisted for an Academy Award in 2013 and his most recent documentary American Jail premiered on CNN this past July.
Harris also is the author of the memoir My Soul Looks Back, as well as 12 cookbooks. Her articles have appeared in Vogue, Food & Wine, Essence and The New Yorker, among other publications.
Pilgrim Media is behind such series as Fast N’ Loud, American Chopper, Street Outlaws (and spinoffs Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings and Street Outlaws: Memphis), Misfit Garage, Garage Rehab and Shifting Gears with Aaron Kaufman for Discovery; Wicked Tuna and Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks for National Geographic; My Big Fat Fabulous Life for TLC; The Ultimate Fighter for FS1; Bring It! and Love at First Flight for Lifetime; Battlefish for Netflix; and Zombie House Flipping for FYI.
Toback and Jagger have created content for The New York Times, Amnesty International, Pepsi, Timberland, Bob Marley’s One Love Foundation, among others, in addition to having created and launched the food, culture and cocktail blog, Hey Sistah.