Spike Lee’s next film project is Frederick Douglass Now, adapted from Roger Guenveur Smith’s one-man show.
According to Variety, this is Lee’s third movie adaptation of Smith’s shows, the other two being A Huey P. Newton Story and Rodney King. Fredrick Douglass Now will be produced by Buffalo 8, the same company that produced Rodney King and Luna Ray Media.
From the description Variety has, it sounds like Frederick Douglass Now will be just right for audiences in a post-Hamilton age. The production includes Douglass reciting his works via rap, and, like Hamilton, draws on both contemporary issues to illuminate how similar the past is to the present. The film version of the production is set to include composer and Smith collaborator Marc Anthony Thompson as well as jazz musician Branford Marsalis, which will give Frederick Douglass Now even more of a contemporary feel.
Frederick Douglass Now is not the only film focusing on a Black history figure in production. Cynthia Erivo is starring in a biopic about Harriet Tubman, which is set to be in theaters in 2019. Frederick Douglass Now also falls in line with a micro-trend of creating history relevant to the present; the John Legend-produced WGN America drama Underground, written by Misha Green and Joe Pokaski, included modern music and storytelling to take the tragedy of slavery out of the past and portray it as a visceral reality.
Lee’s most recent film, BlacKkKlansman, has been lauded by critics, earning a 95 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Based on a true story, the film stars John David Washington as Ron Stallworth, a police detective who was able to infiltrate the KKK in the 1970s.