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Dear White People star Antoinette Robertson and Oscar-nominated Margaret Avery are set to star in Block Party, the Juneteenth family holiday comedy for Branch Out Productions and BuzzFeed Studios.
Robertson will play Harvard grad Keke McQueen, who returns from a lucrative career in Atlanta to her hometown of Grand Rapids when she discovers her once sharp Grandma Janice (Avery) is showing early signs of dementia.
As Keke tries to save her grandma’s annual Juneteenth block party, she falls back in love with her hometown and its people. Dawn Wilkinson is directing Block Party based on a script written by Krista Suh, Matt Allen and Lisa Mathis.
The ensemble cast includes Golden Brooks, Gary Anthony Williams, Birgundi Baker, John Amos, Luenell, Bill Cobbs and Charlyne Yi. Block Party, to shoot in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is positioned as the first Juneteenth movie in production since it became a national holiday this year.
“Just like you have Christmas movies every season, we see Juneteenth as a fantastic kick off to summer blockbuster season and the perfect time to release diverse films such as ours,” co-writer and producer Lisa Mathis said in a statement.
Juneteenth, the June 19 holiday commemorating the official end of U.S. slavery in 1865, was first acknowledged by many non-Black Americans amid 2020’s racial reckoning. The new federal holiday commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas — two months after the Confederacy had surrendered.
That was also about two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves in the Southern states.
Mathis shares the producer credits for Block Party with Allen, Suh, and Gabriel Roth. The film is produced by the Michigan-based, African-American female-owned Branch Out Productions and BuzzFeed Studios as it supports diverse filmmakers and gets their untold stories into the mainstream.
Financing for Block Party comes from Vanner Bay and a large group of minority investors, including women and People of Color.
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