EXCLUSIVE: A feature film about the courageous U.S. activist Rosa Parks is on its way and it just may mark the first time a biopic about Parks will make it into this nation’s theaters. The filmmakers — Winter State Entertainment and a large producing team– are fast-tracking the project to go before the cameras in 2019.
There have been some projects in the past, but not a feature biopic: In the early 2000s, there was an Academy Award nominated documentary Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks (2001) and then Parks herself collaborated on the TV movie The Rosa Parks Story which starred Angela Bassett as the mighty civil rights activist who refused to give up her seat in the whites only section of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama in the 1950s. There was another TV movie that chronicled the three days after Parks’ arrest from TVOne last year titled Behind The Movement. In addition, Julie Dash and Invisible Pictures announced At The Dark End of the Street which was focusing on the decade prior to Parks’ righteous act of defiance on the bus.
This new effort is entitled Rosa. Scripted by Charlie Kessler and Hamid Torabpour, Rosa will chronicle the first 24-hours as they unfold after the arrest of Parks on December 1, 1955. The project will also recognize the contributions to the civil rights movement that the civil rights advocate/activist made both before and after the racist incident in Alabama. A portion of the proceeds from the film will be donated to The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.
The concept for the story was conceived by Kessler who is the producer and director of the upcoming feature Lapham Rising which stars Frank Langella. Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning producer Kerry Orent (whose work includes Michael Clayton, and Showtime Original Series The Affair) is producing with Kessler, Hamid and Camille Torabpour, Dr. Mark Smith, Patrick Werksma, and Ramfis Myrthil (The Broken Ones and A Boy. A Girl. A Dream) of Beast of the East Productions.
Jeanne Theoharis, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College and author of “The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks,” is the consulting producer on the project. Her book was honored with a 2014 NAACP Image Award and the 2013 Letitia Woods Brown Award from the Association of Black Women Historians.
“While most Americans have heard of Rosa Parks, the details of what happened that on the night she was arrested, and her lifetime of political courage and activism, are largely unknown,” Theoharis said in a statement to Deadline. “The real story of Rosa Parks is far different, and even more inspiring and relevant for our times than the tale most children learn in school.”
Kessler added: “We are honored to be working alongside Professor Theoharis. Rosa Parks is an inspiration, and our goal is to be able to use this project to raise awareness for the Rosa and Raymond Park Institute for Self Development. Ms. Parks did not have any children, so her institute is her legacy.”
Elaine Steele, who co-founded the Institute alongside Rosa Parks in 1987, said in a statement: “We are excited about the upcoming movie and are honored that Winter State and the team of filmmakers plan to contribute to The Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development. We are confident that the filmmakers of Rosa will bring quality and their commitment to accuracy to this important historical event.”
Winter State Entertainment’s slate includes recently announced projects Elijah, directed by Brett Leonard, Summertime Dropouts (the Vans Warped tour film), Brother’s Keeper, starring Laurence Fishburne and Milo Gibson, and Outbreak Z, directed by Chris Brewster (renow stunt performer with credits including Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix, Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Winter State is based in the Midwest in Minnesota and run by the Torabpours.