Renowned actor and director Bill Duke recently signed on to direct a biopic about gospel great Mahalia Jackson.
“Getting her story to the screen has been a passion project of mine for many years,” said Duke, who most recent projects were the documentaries Dark Girls and Light Girls.
Written by Ruth L. Ratny, The Mahalia Jackson Story, will be based on firsthand accounts from people who knew Jackson personally as well as from her biography.
Over 20 of Jackson’s classic songs, such as “I’m On My Way,” “Move On Up,” and “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” which was recently featured in the hit movie Selma.
“When she sings ‘How I Got Over,’ it helps us all to believe that we can get over, too,” Duke added.
The movie will be filmed in Chicago, where Jackson spent most of her life after moving from New Orleans as a teenager. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says Jackson helped to solidfy the city’s reputation in the gospel music world.
“Mahalia Jackson was a very active citizen of Chicago who helped make the city the Gospel Capital of the World,” said Emanuel in a letter of support for the film.
The city plans to roll out the red carpet for the production with support from a number of entities, including business, civic and clerical leaders in addition to Chicago’s burgeoning film industry. Cinespace Studios, which already hosts hits such as “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago PD,” and Fox’s “Empire,” will open its production facilities to the film.
No release date for The Mahalia Jackson Story has been given yet.