Bringing to life this important Harlem Renaissance history featuring Rose McClendon and the seminal work of a young Orson Welles, VOODOO MACBETH premiered at Harlem International in 2021, earning three awards including Best Film and Best Actress, and has just been obtained by Lightyear Entertainment for theatrical release this Autumn.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
4 August 2022
LIGHTYEAR ENTERTAINMENT ACQUIRES “VOODOO MACBETH,”
A USC ORIGINALS FILM IN ASSOCIATION WITH WARNER BROS.
Lightyear Entertainment has acquired Voodoo Macbeth, a narrative feature film about the Negro Theatre Unit’s revolutionary 1936 production of “Macbeth,” it was announced today by CEO Arnie Holland. Voodoo Macbeth is based on a true story of young Orson Welles and a group of committed artists as they set out to create what is now considered a landmark event in African-American theater history. The film is slated for an October release in the U.S. and Canada.
With FDR’s New Deal providing funding for the Federal Theatre Project, director Rose McClendon convinces co-director John Houseman to help her bring Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” to the Harlem community at the Lafayette Theater — with an all-Black cast. Well before “Citizen Kane” and “War of the Worlds,” they choose for their groundbreaking production a gifted but untested 20-year-old Welles, whose reimagined Haitian vision for the Scottish play is as daring and fresh as the cast and crew themselves. He exchanges the witchcraft of the original play for Caribbean voodoo.
The production was highly controversial, provoking heated protests from Harlemites who considered it exploitative, and by politicians who thought it subversive. The play debuted to packed audiences and was wildly successful, playing the Lafayette Theater for 10 weeks and then touring across America.
“This film beautifully shows us the seminal moment in Orson Welles’ career, the first project that put him on the map,” Holland said. “At the same time, we shine a light on the phenomenal Rose McClendon, a strong Black woman who was a major player in the Harlem Renaissance, started Negro Theater Units in 11 American cities, and as the film portrays, was an essential mentor to Welles in his first important directing gig.”
In a 1982 interview, Welles said, “By all odds, my great success in my life was that play, because the opening night there were five blocks in which all traffic was stopped. You couldn’t get near the theatre in Harlem. Everybody who was anybody in the black or white world was there. And when the play ended there were so many curtain calls that finally they left the curtain open, and the audience came up on the stage to congratulate the actors. And that was magical.”
Voodoo Macbeth marks the first theatrical release from USC Originals in association with Warner Bros., and was overseen by veteran producer and USC professor John Watson, (“Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “Backdraft” and “The Outer Limits”). Voodoo Macbeth had 10 directors, eight writers and three producers.
“The process of making Voodoo Macbeth is unlike any other film in today’s marketplace,” noted producer Jason Phillips. “We’re certainly challenging the auteur theory, proving that a feature film doesn’t need a single voice to create a cohesive vision. From a myriad of diverse backgrounds, the team represents an array of unique perspectives. Our communal approach is reflected throughout every step of the filmmaking process.”
Voodoo Macbeth began in a writers’ room where screenwriters collaborated on each facet of the writing process. Then the film’s directors who each embody different perspectives, styles, and tastes came together to form a common vision. With seasoned cast and crew, Voodoo Macbeth is a launching pad for the next generation of filmmakers and demonstrates the power of community over the individual.
With a run in over 20 film festivals, Voodoo Macbeth has received 14 wins and three additional nominations, including Best Film, Best Production and Best Actress at the Harlem International Film Festival; Best in Festival and The Audience Choice Award at Sedona International Film Festival; and Best Feature Film at Dances with Films.
ABOUT THE CAST AND CREW:
Inger Tudor (known for “Goliath,” “On Time” and “The Social Network”) stars as Rose McClendon, and Jewell Wilson Bridges (known for the national tours of Trevor Nunn & Matthew Bourne’s revival of “My Fair Lady” and Terry Johnson’s revival of “La Cage Aux Folles”) as Orson Welles in his feature film debut. Other cast members include June Schreiner, Jeremy Tardy, Ashli Haynes, Daniel Kuhlman, Wrekless Watson, Gary McDonald and Hunter Bodine.
The Voodoo Macbeth directors are Dagmawi Abebe, Victor Alonso-Berbel, Hannah Bang, Christopher Beaton, Agazi Desta, Zoë Salnave, Roy Arwas, Tiffany K. Guillen, Ernesto Sandoval and Sabina Vajrača. The writers are Erica Sutherlin, Agazi Desta, Morgan Milender, Jennifer Frazin, Molly Miller, Amri Rigby, Joel David Santner and Chris Tarricone. The producers are Jason Phillips, Miles Alva and Xiaoyuan Xiao. The executive producers are Tracy ‘Twinkie’ Byrd and Jenna Cavelle.
ABOUT LIGHTYEAR ENTERTAINMENT:
Lightyear Entertainment is a distribution company that previously theatrically released Tanna, which was Academy Award nominated for Best Foreign Film. Additionally, Holland and his team theatrically released The Etruscan Smile, which starred Brian Cox (HBO’s Succession), Maze, Jirga and Goldstone.
ABOUT USC ORIGINALS:
USC Originals represents a new approach to creating feature films and other creative commercial content under the auspices of the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Projects under the USC Originals banner engage teams of recent alumni and advanced students in working collaboratively on each part of their development and creation, with multiple writers, directors and producers working on the same film. The group-creators approach maximizes opportunities for diverse crews of both above and below the line talent. USC Originals are Executive Produced by veteran producer and professor John Watson.
GS Entertainment Marketing Group
Voodoo Macbeth. Jeremy Tardy as Maurice, Jewell Wilson Bridges as Orson Welles, Gary McDonald as Jack Carter, Inger Tudor as Rose McClendon, and Dameon Victorian as Siward. Photo credit: Lightyear Entertainment.
LIGHTYEAR AQUIRES AWARD-WINNING VOODOO MACBETH