Oscar winner John Legend, actor Jesse Williams get behind doc on 1968 Olympic champion Tommie Smith
They sign on as executive producers of film about man who famously gave black power salute from medal stand
Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer/songwriter John Legend and actor Jesse Williams ("Grey's Anatomy") have signed on as executive producers for a new documentary on Olympic Gold Medalist Tommie Smith.
With Drawn Arms will examine the bold decision by Smith and Bronze medalist John Carlos to raise their fists in the black power salute as the National Anthem played during the medal ceremony for the 200-meters race at the 1968 Games in Mexico City. Artist Glenn Kaino and photographer/filmmaker Afshin Shahid are co-directing the film.
Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius, partners with Legend in the production company Get Lifted Film Co., are among the other executive producers on the film, which is expected to be released in 2018 -- the 50th anniversary of the Mexico City Games.
In this current climate we are once again being charged to stand up to bigotry, fear, and hate.
"Tommie Smith is more than an iconic poster or risky act of defiance that inspires people the world over. He is a living man, whose incredible journey is worthy of examination," Williams, who has become noted for his activism in recent years, said in a press release.
"In this current climate we are once again being charged to stand up to bigotry, fear, and hate. We are inspired by this story and honored to be a creative partner on this film," Legend commented via press release. "We are excited to collaborate with true artists in Glenn Kaino and Afshin Shahidi to bring this powerful story to the world in a fresh and compelling way."
The documentary is now in production in Los Angeles, according to the producers. The filmmaking team called the project "incredibly timely," doubtlessly in reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as the decision by numerous NFL athletes this season to take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem.
That symbolic action by pro football players -- meant to highlight America's failure to address racism and inequality -- gained ground after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began the movement last season. Slate.com is among the media outlets to draw a parallel between Kaepernick's silent protest and Smith's salute in 1968.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.