Writer-director Julie Dash made history with 1991’s “Daughters of the Dust,” the first feature directed by an African-American woman to be distributed theatrically in the U.S. Now she’s turning her camera on another trailblazing woman of color. Deadline reports that Dash has inked a deal to direct an upcoming biopic about civil rights activist Rosa Parks, who died in 2005. Production is expected to kick off in 2018.
Hailing from Invisible Pictures and Audrey Rosenberg (“I Am Not Your Negro”), the project takes place during the decade before her famous moment refusing to move on a Montgomery bus, when she “sought justice for 24-year-old wife and mother Recy Taylor, who was brutally gang-raped by six white men in Alabama in 1944,” the source summarizes. (Nancy Buirski’s new doc about the case and its legacy, “The Rape of Recy Taylor,” is making its North American premiere at the New York Film Festival on October 1.)
The Parks film is based on Danielle McGuire’s award-winning 2010 nonfiction book “At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance — A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power.” Lisa Jones (“Disappearing Acts”) penned the screenplay.
Dash previously helmed a 2002 CBS TV movie about Parks starring Angela Bassett, “The Rosa Parks Story.”
“I jumped at the opportunity to dive head first back into the Rosa Parks story,” Dash told Deadline. “Doing the CBS movie, I realized that there was so much more to her life, legacy, and her activism that we didn’t have time in one [movie]. It was fascinating and just as dramatic as the Montgomery bus boycott, which is what she’s known for, but there is so much more.”
“Per Dash, the film will not only center on Parks’ efforts, but also the many other female activists who banded together to defend Taylor and demand justice for the crime (the perpetrators were never arrested, and Taylor’s case was dismissed),” the source writes.
“This is a great opportunity to revisit Jo Anne Robinson, Claudette Colvin, Recy Taylor, all the people who never really make it into ‘The Rosa Parks Story,’” Dash observed. “It’s an ensemble cast of feisty activists who changed the course of history” and laid the foundation for future civil rights demonstrations.
Dash also emphasized the significance of perspective in telling stories — that it matters who steps behind the camera to depict these events. “It’s important that black women, who know these stories and have intimate knowledge, that we tell these stories in the manner that they were meant to be told… It’s time to see theses stories in a new light and through a female lens.”
The “Queen Sugar” director added, “One of the reasons this story is being told is so that people can connect the dots and see that there’s a continuum. Maybe it’s not the back of the bus, but the hypocrisy is the same, the racism is the same, the systemic oppression is the same, and the rape cases are absolutely the same.” She hopes that audiences will be inspired “with what has been accomplished in the past” and inspired to “understand the bigger picture.” “There so many things that are happening today that run parallel,” she observed.
Dash was honored at last year’s Mill Valley Film Festival. She was the recipient of a Tribute program, which featured an onstage conversation with Dash, a clip reel of her work, and a screening of a restored version of “Daughters of the Dust.”
Julie Dash to Direct Biopic of Rosa Parks was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.