OPRF doc lands $5M deal

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

The Steve James documentary film series exploring the intersection of race and education at Oak Park and River Forest High School, titled America to Me, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival this month, and James returned home with a TV deal.

Deadline Hollywood is reporting that Starz will pay somewhere in the range of $5 million for "world rights license fee," with Lionsgate handling the film's release overseas.

Carmi Zlotni, the president of programming for Starz, said that James' film "is extremely socially relevant and timely, which exemplifies our diversity strategy. Steve's ability to bring the real and honest portrait of these students and the complex and compelling issues they face through this series is admirable."

David Linde, CEO of Participant Media, which produced the film along with Kartemquin Films, said the Starz deal will allow the series to screen "to audiences everywhere."

And according to Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips, those audiences won't be disappointed.

"There is an awful lot here," Phillips writes of the 10-episode docu-series, "and I may be wrong, but I think 'America to Me' will end up doing a lot of good for a lot of people. The school should rest easy; they did the right thing granting James the access and space he needed."

The docu-series, which examines a year in the lives of OPRF students, teachers and administrators as they deal with the racial equity gap, premieres on Starz in the fall.

— Michael Romain  

Email: michael@oakpark.com

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