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A Huey P. Newton Story

About the Project:
Actor and writer Roger Guenveur Smith has adapted his Obie Award-winning solo performance of A Huey P. Newton Story into an innovative film for television directed by long-time colleague and Oscar-nominee Spike Lee. Smith's stream-of-consciousness monologue is inspired by the writings and interviews of Newton, the late co-founder of the Black Panther Party of Self-Defense. A Huey P. Newton Story marks the seventh collaboration of Smith and Lee, others including Do the Right Thing, School Daze, Malcolm X, Get on the Bus, He Got Game and Summer of Sam.

Lee and Smith bring to life Newton's history, philosophies and flavor in A Huey P. Newton Story, presented on PBS by KQED San Francisco on Wednesday, February 13 at 9 p.m. (check local listings). A Huey P. Newton Story is an original production of Luna Ray Films and BLACK STARZ! in association with PBS and the African Heritage Network.

Lee complements Smith's performance with an imaginative mixture of multiple camera angles and documentary footage in concert with frequent collaborators -- designer Wynn Thomas, director of photography Ellen Kuras and editor Barry Alexander Brown. Taped before a live audience in New York City, A Huey P. Newton Story also features an Obie Award-winning score by Marc Anthony Thompson and guest solos by Grammy Award-winning Branford Marsalis.

The play toured international stages for several seasons to critical and popular acclaim. The film A Huey P. Newton Story has begun a similar trajectory, hailed at film festivals around the globeĐincluding Venice, London, Vancouver, Acapulco, Oslo, Jamaica and Havana. Domestically, it has recently garnered NAACP Image Award nominations for Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special and Outstanding Actor in the same category.

Huey P. Newton:
The youngest of seven, Huey P. Newton was born in a Monroe, Louisiana and moved with his family to Oakland, California as a child. In 1966, the 24-year-old Newton, with Bobby Seale, co-founded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Newton and Seale articulated a ten-point plan of liberation which placed the Panthers in the international spotlight and made them the target of a well-documented program of government harassment. In 1967, Newton was arrested for the murder of an Oakland police officer which inspired thousands world-wide to take up the chant, "Free Huey!" Acquitted in 1970, Huey emerged triumphantly, only to be confined in a penthouse apartment, his self-described "stucco cell."

Leading a creative, complex and controversial life, Newton was an enigmatic figure. A largely self-educated political theorist and poet, Newton published an autobiography, Revolutionary Suicide: To Die for the People, a collection of essays; On Common Ground, conversations at Yale University; and Insights and Other Poems. In 1974, Newton went to Cuba, fleeing murder and assault charges in Oakland. He returned to Oakland in 1977 to stand trial, once again avoiding conviction. In 1980, he earned a Ph.D. at the University of California at Santa Cruz. His dissertation was published as War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America. Newton spent the last years of his life fighting protracted legal battles and self-acknowledged vices. In 1989, he was murdered in Oakland by a 24-year-old drug dealer, his life tragically extinguished on the same streets where he had labored to deliver "All Power to the People."

"Huey was in a struggle with American society and he was also in a struggle with himself," commented Smith. "As he boxes shadows, looking into his cracked mirror, there we are, looking over his shoulder, perhaps catching a glimpse of ourselves."

About the Filmmakers:
Roger Guenveur Smith (actor/writer) has created an astonishing range of work for the stage and screen. A Huey P. Newton Story, Smith's signature solo performance, has been internationally acclaimed, awarding him the coveted Obie Award for its sold-out off-Broadway engagement.

A Huey P. Newton Story, the film, is the latest in Smith's extraordinary series of collaborations with director Spike Lee. Smith has essayed a gallery of memorable characters in Lee's School Daze, Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Get on the Bus, He Got Game and Summer of Sam. Among his many other film credits are the recent hit Final Destination, Eve's Bayou and cult favorites, King of New York, Deep Cover, Tales From the Hood, Panther, Poetic Justice and John Singleton's latest feature, Baby Boy.

Television viewers are familiar with Smith from his starring roles in BET's Incognito, directed by Julie Dash; USA Network's The Color of Courage, with Lynn Whitfield; and series such as Oz, All My Children, New York Undercover and A Different World. Other recent films for television include Campbell Scott's Hamlet and The Warden. Smith is currently shooting the New Line feature All About the Benjamins opposite Ice Cube and Mike Epps.

For the stage, Smith has also created and performed the award-winning Inside the Creole Mafia, Frederick Douglas Now, Christopher Columbus 1992 and Blood and Brains. He directed the coast-to-coast Radio Mambo, starring the California performance trio Culture Clash. The New York Shakespeare Festival, Mark Taper Forum, Arena Stage, Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago) and the Barbican Centre (London) are among the many prestigious institutions that have presented Smith's work.

Spike Lee (director) has established himself as one of Hollywood's most important and influential filmmakers. Most recently, he completed his thirteenth film, Bamboozled, which stars Damon Wayans, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tommy Davidson and Savion Glover. Other films include Summer of Sam, Girl 6 and Get on the Bus. These movies follow some of his most critically acclaimed films, Malcolm X, Clockers and Do the Right Thing.

In 1986, his debut film, the independently produced hit comedy She's Gotta Have It, earned him the Prix de Jeunesse Award at the Cannes Film Festival and set him in the forefront of the Black New Wave in American Cinema.

School Daze, his second feature, not only was highly profitable, but also helped launch the careers of several young Black actors. Lee's timely 1989 film Do the Right Thing garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film and Director Awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Jungle Fever, Mo' Better Blues, Clockers and Crooklyn were also critically well received.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in Brooklyn, Lee returned south to attend Morehouse College. After graduation, he returned to Brooklyn to continue his education at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in Manhattan where he received his Master of Fine Arts degree in film production. Lee then founded 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks based in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, where he has resided since childhood.

In addition to his achievements in feature films, Spike Lee has produced and directed music videos for a variety of artists, and produced and directed a number of commercials starring various celebrities and on behalf of numerous brands.

Lee is also involved in documentaries and sports programs, having completed the Emmy- and Oscar-nominated documentary 4 Little Girls for HBO and receiving an Emmy Award for his piece on Georgetown's John Thompson.

Ever moving into new areas, Lee has combined his extensive creative experience into yet another venture. Partnering with DDB Needham, he has created Spike/DDB, a full-service advertising agency that will concentrate on the urban/ethnic market.

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