Thursday, March 09, 2006

Mos Def, Sophie Okonedo and the Black Panthers

Halfway through the rather wretched "16 Blocks," I couldn't help but start thinking how great it would be if Mos Def got to play the lead role in a good movie. Apparently, I've finally mastered the fine art of mind control.

Word comes today from the Hollywood Reporter that Mos Def and the simply stunning Sophie Okonedo from "Hotel Rwanda" are in final negotiations to co-star in the indie period drama "Stringbean and Marcus," which was written and will be directed by first-time feature helmer Tanya Hamilton.

The film takes place in 1978 and focuses on the broken love affair between two former Black Panther Party members (Mos Def and Okonedo) and is told through the eyes of an adolescent girl. "It's not so much about the idea of race," Hamilton said. "I just wanted to show this world of ordinary people living under extraordinary circumstances, trying to outrun this past they all have."

That's about all we know right now, but I'm still jazzed. The Panthers have been popping up in the news a lot lately, mostly thanks to Fred Hampton Jr. He had the only truly dischordant moment in "Dave Chappelle's Block Party" when he took the stage to rant about political prisoners, and then the New York Times featured a story about his efforts to get a Chicago street named for his father, slain Panther leader Chairman Fred Hampton.

Politics aside, it's a fascinating subject with two top-tier actors attached. I've loved Mos ever since seeing him in Suzan-Lori Parks' disappointing play "Top Dog/Underdog," and Okonedo burned up the screen in "Dirty Pretty Things".

Good news indeed

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