It’s one assumption – that the election of Donald Trump, after maybe the ugliest and most hateful, divisive presidential campaign that this country has seen in modern times, is inspiring film and TV producers to take a closer look at America’s revolting past, and more specifically, certain hate groups with long histories; the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) for example.
It’s also worth noting that 2016 has seen Hollywood face its racial biases, and do maybe more than it’s ever done to at least begin to fix its so-called diversity problem; we’ve seen high profile, popular films and TV series that address this country’s ugly racist past prior to, and after the KKK gained prominence, like Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation,” WGN’s “Underground” series, the reboot of “Roots,” Ava DuVernay’s “13th,” as well as announcement of 2 upcoming feature films on Harriet Tubman, a number of Civil War set dramas, and more. We can even add the unearthing of previously untold stories from America’s past that highlight the resilience and achievement of black people in the face of immense adversity (racism to start) like that which is at the center of “Hidden Figures” which will be released in the USA this weekend. And while secondary, it’s also the year that Marvel’s Black Panther movie finally got its wings and industry “diversity” became cause célèbre. It’s all related; this is the climate we’re currently in. And within it, there’s been a “whitelash” as Van Jones put it and much anti-immigrant sentiment, the seeming *rise* of the so-called “alt-right,” all headlined by the man who will be our next president. So projects that tackle the country’s racist, non-inclusive past, and its key players, will likely continue to be greenlit. They’ve proven to be commercial successes… for the most part, and as the saying goes, “money talks.”
In March of this year, it was announced that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was attached to produce and potentially star “K Troop” – a film currently in development that will focus on the early days of the KKK, which is based on a Slate magazine article by Matthew Pearl.
The K Troop was a real-life network of informants, led by a Major Lewis Merrill (the role that Levitt will play if he stars in the film), who risked their lives to expose the Klan. It’s worth noting that some of the informants were African Americans.
The film will be set just after the Civil War, and, at the time of its announcement in the early spring, was seeking a screenwriter.
In October, Amazon Studios said it was also developing a film that will chronicle the rise of the KKK in the South in the 1860s, and the brutal fight against them.
And announced over this weekend, for the small screen, A&E Network announced that it too was producing a KKK project – an 8-part documentary series titled “Generation KKK.”
“This series gives viewers an unprecedented look at what it is like to be born into hate. Our producers gained access to Klan families allowing for full immersion into this secret world and its impact on the next generation,” said A&E in a press statement. “‘Generation KKK’ brings viewers inside the places where hatred and prejudice are born and bred, and carried forward or not.”
In “Generation KKK,” cameras follow four prominent Klan families who each have a family member trying to escape the Ku Klux Klan. The series “pulls back the curtain on the organization that the Anti-Defamation League calls a racist, anti-Semitic movement with a commitment to extreme violence to achieve its goals of racial segregation and white supremacy, to show its effects on American families as members grapple with the consequences of leaving.”
The series will also follow a network of anti-hate and peace activists working to break the cycle, by helping to convince members to leave the hate group. The team consists of Daryle Lamont Jenkins, the co-founder of One People’s Project, an organization that monitors and investigates hate groups; speaker, author and peace educator Arno Michaelis, a former skinhead who joined the white power movement at the age of 16; and Bryon Widner, a reformed Neo-Nazi and subject of the documentary Erasing Hate, who spent sixteen years as a skinhead until he realized the environment wasn’t best for his son. These activists develop deep relationships with Klan families attempting to convince them to hang up their robes and finally leave the group for good.
“Generation KKK” premieres on January 10 th at 10 PM ET/PT on A&E.
“Generation KKK” is produced for A&E Network by This Is Just A Test (TIJAT).
No ETA on when we can expect the Gordon-Levitt or Amazon films.
I should note that there are likely other KKK-related projects in the works that we’re not aware of.