Filmmaker Julie Dash is preparing to direct a biopic on civil rights icon Rosa Parks, which will focus on the decade before the seminal moment she refused to give up her seat for a white person on a Montgomery, Alabama bus.
According to Deadline, the story will center on Parks as an activist seeking justice for 24-year-old wife and mother Recy Taylor, who was brutally gang-raped by six white men in Alabama in 1944.
The film – from Invisible Pictures with Audrey Rosenberg I Am Not Your Negro and Jess Jacobs producing – is based on the book At the Dark End of the Street by Danielle McGuire, which Lisa Jones, HBO’s Disappearing Acts adapted as a screenplay.
Dash was brought on to helm based on her previous experience directing the 2002 CBS movie The Rosa Parks Story, which starred Angela Bassett.
“I jumped at the opportunity to dive headfirst back into the Rosa Parks story,” Dash told Deadline. “Doing the CBS movie, I realized that there was so much more to her life, legacy, and her activism that we didn’t have time in one [movie]. It was fascinating and just as dramatic as the Montgomery bus boycott, which is what she’s known for, but there is so much more.”
Per Dash, the film will not only center on Park’s efforts, but also the many other female activists who banded together to defend Taylor and demand justice for the crime (the perpetrators were never arrested, and Taylor’s case was dismissed).
“This is a great opportunity to revisit Jo Anne Robinson, Claudette Colvin, Recy Taylor, all the people who never really make it into The Rosa Parks Story,” Dash said. “It’s an ensemble cast of feisty activists who changed the course of history” and laid the foundation for future civil rights demonstrations.
Dash underscored the significance of telling authentic stories through an authentic perspective. “It’s important that black women, who know these stories and have intimate knowledge, that we tell these stories in the manner that they were meant to be told… It’s time to see these stories in a new light and through a female lens.”
One reason why this story, and others like it, can still be relevant in the current societal climate, Dash offered, “One of the reasons this story is being told is so that people can connect the dots and see that there’s a continuum.” She continued, “Maybe it’s not the back of the bus, but the hypocrisy is the same, the racism is the same, the systemic oppression is the same, and the rape cases are absolutely the same.” Dash said she hopes those who see the film will be inspired “with what has been accomplished in the past” and motivated to “understand the bigger picture.”
“There so many things that are happening today that run parallel,” she said.
The film is in its early stages, with a production start date eyed for 2018.
Dash has left her own mark in the history books. With her 1991 film Daughters Of The Dust, she became the first African American woman to have her feature released in theaters in the U.S.; the film is being preserved by the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress and inducted into the Sundance Collection.
More recently, she has directed multiple episodes of the OWN/Ava DuVernay series Queen Sugar, which returns with the second half of Season 2 next month.