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The Ku Klux Klan is back in the public consciousness, and in cinemas as well.
First up is Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, which Focus Features will open on 600 to 800 screens Aug. 10, one year after the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Also likely to get a wide release is Burden, which Roadside is in talks to acquire after a Sundance pact with Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios fell apart (at least three other distributors continue to chase the film).
The Endeavor Content-repped drama, about a Klansman who forsakes hate for redemption thanks in part to a black reverend, has potential in the religious market, says director Andrew Heckler. (Roadside already is a winner in the space after teaming with Lionsgate for the year’s most successful indie, the faith-based drama I Can Only Imagine.)
“We were surprised by the Christian reaction at Sundance, because we swear a lot in the movie. There’s violence and some sexual content,” he tells THR. “But I think that the faith?based audience has matured. They don’t want to be pandered to with content that’s not real.”
Likewise, Amazon is out to directors for the Joseph Gordon-Levitt-produced K Troop, which tells how an elite Army unit fought off the Klan’s post-Civil War rise.”It’s unsettling how much resonance to current events readers found, especially after Charlottesville,” says Matthew Pearl, who wrote the 2016 Slate story on which the film is based. “It never crossed my mind that the KKK would be in any headlines near the time we put out K Troop.”
Another project on the fast track is Superman vs. The KKK at PaperChase Films, the financing company behind Maggie Gyllenhaal starrer The Kindergarten Teacher. Set in 1946, the film recalls how hit radio serial The Adventures of Superman drove down Klan recruitment by pitting the Man of Steel against the KKK.
These four movies come 20 years after the last major white-supremacist-focused film, 1998’s American History X, made $24 million worldwide. What does David Duke think of the renewed attention? Ron Stallworth, whose memoir serves as BlacKkKlansman‘s basis, says the former Grand Wizard denies he was ever duped by the ex-cop: “He is saying it never happened. He is saying the screenwriters were some Jewish boys. This is typical David Duke.”
This story first appeared in the July 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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