American Masters: How It Feels To Be Free will tell the story of Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier and how they challenged an entertainment industry deeply complicit in perpetuating racist stereotypes, and transformed themselves and their audiences in the process.
The doc, which will air in early 2021 on PBS and the Documentary Channel in Canada, features interviews and archival performances with all six women, as well as original conversations with artists influenced by them, including Keys, Halle Berry, Lena Waithe, Meagan Good, LaTanya Richardson Jackson and Samuel L. Jackson, as well as family members, including Horne’s daughter Gail Lumet Buckley.
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It is based on the book How It Feels To Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement by Ruth Feldstein.
American Masters: How It Feels To Be Free is produced by Yap Films in association with American Masters Pictures, ITVS, Chicken & Egg Pictures. Michael Kantor, Alicia Keys, Lacey Schwartz Delgado, Mehret Mandefro, Elliott Halpern and Elizabeth Trojian are executive producers. Yoruba Richen is director. Fremantle holds global distribution rights (ex-U.S. and Canada) to the documentary.
It was announced as part of PBS’s Virtual Press Tour.
Director Yoruba Richen said, “At this unprecedented time of racial reckoning and as Hollywood is reassessing its role in perpetuating racist stereotypes, now is the perfect moment to tell the stories of these path-breaking women who have inspired generations of Black female superstars—like Keys, Halle Berry, Issa Rae, Ava DuVernay and Lena Waithe—who continue to push boundaries and reshape how African American women are seen onscreen.”
Alicia Keys said, “I am proud to be a part of such a meaningful, important project. Art is the most powerful medium on the planet, and I continue to be inspired by and learn from these powerful, brave and stereotype-shattering women who leveraged their success as artists to fearlessly stand up against racism, sexism, exclusion and harassment. I honor their courage by celebrating their stories and continuing the work they started.”
Harry Gamsu, Vice President of Non-Scripted Content Acquisitions, Fremantle, added, “Throughout the course of history, the stories of Black women have been consistently overlooked and ignored. Now we are witnessing incredible stories like these being told by Black women, and we are honored to be a partner in helping bring these voices to a global audience.”
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