EXCLUSIVE: Shout! Studios has acquired worldwide rights to Emmy-winning director Nancy Buirski’s documentary A Crime on the Bayou, the third in her trilogy of films that explore vital stories from the Civil Rights era.
Shout! Studios, the distribution and production arm of Shout! Factory, plans a theatrical release for A Crime on the Bayou later this year, followed by a rollout on VOD, digital, broadcast and home entertainment. EGOT-winner John Legend is an executive producer of the film that revisits the case of Gary Duncan, who as a Black teenager in 1966 was arrested in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana in a racially-charged incident.
Duncan’s “crime” was to break up a fight between white and Black youths outside a newly-integrated school, during which he “gently [laid] his hand on a white boy’s arm,” setting in motion a prosecution for assault on a minor. Duncan was defended by Richard Sobol, a young Jewish attorney, and the two developed a friendship as they took their fight for Duncan’s exoneration all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I am delighted to partner once again with distinguished filmmaker Nancy Buirski on this moving and illuminating doc that shines a light on a groundbreaking piece of recent American history, an exceptional story of friendship and humanity,” said Julie Dansker, head of new content sales at Shout! Studios. “We’re very proud to be involved in bringing A Crime on the Bayou to audiences.”
Added Jordan Fields, Shout! Studios VP of acquisitions, “Here is a remarkable story—remarkably told by Nancy Buirski—that is revelatory in its history, inspiring in its quest for justice and deeply moving in its depiction of an unlikely and important friendship. It’s an American story that will resonate all over the world.”
Buirski has demonstrated a keen ability to recover seminal moments from America’s fraught history of racism that have slipped from public consciousness. Her 2017 documentary The Rape of Recy Taylor illuminated the heroism of Taylor, a young African-American woman who bravely pursued justice after a group of white men sexually assaulted her in Alabama in 1944. Buirski’s 2011 film The Loving Story, the first in her Civil Rights-related trilogy, examined the case of interracial couple Richard and Mildred Loving, who were prosecuted in the 1950s for violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law. Buirski was a producer of the fictionalized telling of the story in Loving, the 2016 film that earned an Oscar nomination for actress Ruth Negga in the role of Mildred Loving.
Regarding the acquisition of her latest film, Buirski said, “I am thrilled that A Crime on the Bayou has been so fiercely embraced by everyone at Shout! Factory. They immediately connected to the moving friendship of Gary Duncan and Richard Sobol, the heartbeat of our story. They were equally struck by the timeliness of this story emerging out of Louisiana in the 1960’s. They knew this was not history, but our current reality being reconsidered.”
A Crime on the Bayou premiered at DOC NYC in 2020. The Rape of Recy Taylor earned the Human Rights Film Network Award at the 2017 Venice Film Festival. The Loving Story won a News and Documentary Emmy, along with awards at the Silverdocs Documentary Festival and the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. Loving received the 2017 Stanley Kramer Award at the Producers Guild of America Awards.
A Crime on the Bayou is written and directed by Buirski, produced by Buirski, Susan Margolin, and Claire L. Chandler, with Vanessa Martino co-producing. Executive producers include Legend, Mike Jackson, Ty Stiklorius and Austyn Biggers of Get Lifted Film Co., as well as Regina K. Scully, Geralyn Dreyfous, Harlene Freezer, Felicia Horowitz, Jules Horowitz, Brenda Robinson, Amy Tiemann, Mark Trustin, and Jamie Wolf. The documentary is a production of Augusta Films in association with Get Lifted Film Co. and Artemis Rising Foundation.
The acquisition deal was negotiated by Shout’s Jordan Fields and Julie Dansker, and Steven Katz, VP of business affairs. ICM’s Jessica Lacy and Charlotte Lichtman represented the filmmakers.