Getty Images/Rochelle Brodin
EXCLUSIVE: Yemi Bamiro (Fight the power) was set to “Direct”. Black is Beautiful: The Story of Kwame Brathwaitea documentary about the life and work of activist, cultural icon and renowned photojournalist Kwame Brathwaite, Wayfarer Studios (Ezra, It ends with us) is being developed in collaboration with Misfits Entertainment (McQueen, Phoenix from the ashes), The Creative Coalition and The Kwame Brathwaite Archive.
The film is a celebration of Black history, art and culture and traces Brathwaite’s rise to a position of great influence against the backdrop of the Second Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement and the development of modern art. A pioneer and founding father of the Black is Beautiful movement, Brathwaite is perhaps best known for co-founding Grandassa Models, a group of Black female models that promoted African-inspired fashion and beauty ideals with the goal of shifting away from them promote the more traditional Eurocentric standard by emphasizing a more cosmopolitan appearance. The movement was documented through Brathwaite’s photographs of gatherings that included music, poetry readings, plays and art in its various forms. With Grandassa Models he managed to create an authentic and unfiltered environment where people could be themselves and enjoy their natural beauty, and to this day the group meets weekly.
Brathwaite’s work has appeared in publications such as Vogue, The New Yorker, The New York Times, Essence, Blues and Soul, New York Post, New York Magazine and National Geographic. Over a career spanning more than six decades, he has captured everyone from Mohammed Ali and The Jackson 5 to Nelson Mandela and Grace Jones, with an equal focus on everyday people.
Using his photographic medium to highlight the convergence of fashion, activism, music and art on a global scale, Brathwaite captured spectacular moments in history, both large and small. His essential contribution to the Black aesthetic continues to inspire the next generation of photographers, celebrities and artists across all mediums, messages and brands.
Help that black is beautiful Aiding the filmmakers in their mission to celebrate Brathwaite’s unique life and talents is the vast archive of never-before-seen materials accessed through the creative’s estate. Steve Sarowitz, co-founder of Wayfarer Studios, will direct the documentary alongside Andee Ryder, co-founder and co-owner of Misfits Entertainment. The picture’s producers include Justin Baldoni and Andrew Calof of Wayfarer, Ian Bonhôte and Lizzie Gillett of Misfits Entertainment, Robin Bronk for The Creative Coalition and Kwame S Brathwaite on behalf of The Kwame Brathwaite Archive.
Brathwaite’s son, Kwame S. Brathwaite, shared that the process of archiving his father’s “writing, ephemera and iconic photographs” has taken place over the past few years. “We are truly excited,” he said, “for this opportunity to provide a detailed look at the breadth and historical significance of his work.”
Bamiro stated that he came to the project as a “big fan” of Brathwaite’s work. “To have the opportunity to illuminate the life, work, activism and influence of such a legendary figure is a privilege,” he said.
Calof, president of production and development at Wayfarer Studios, said: “The world has not heard enough about this incredibly pivotal man who has influenced black aesthetics since the 1960s.” Images depicting the persecution of black people deeply touched Kwame and as a photographer he felt compelled to change the focus and provide a positive narrative about this period.”
Calof further emphasized that Brathwaite “was committed to highlighting the love, hope and beauty that exists in the underground movement of black culture, and he was committed to bringing this into the mainstream.” This greatness has had a huge impact on generations since had.”
Bamiro most recently directed Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World, a PBS documentary about the birth and evolution of hip-hop, featuring talent such as Chuck D, Ice-T and Run DMC. He also headed the doctor A man and his shoes on the “social, cultural and racial significance” of Air Jordan sneakers as well Reggae Fever: David Rodigan, a documentary that examines the career of the British DJ of the same name. Other previous projects include that of Viceland Hate your neighbor and Prime Video’s Fever Pitch: The Rise of the Premier League. The filmmaker is represented by Jenny Parker at Mint & Co.