Civil rights series for sports network

ESPN is making a rare foray into documentaries, commissioning a four-hour series about the civil rights movement in America directed by documaker Dan Klores.

“Black Magic” looks at the injustices that permeated 1950s and ’60s America through the prism of basketball at historically black colleges and universities.

Pic is scheduled to air next March over the course of two nights.

Klores produced “Magic” via his Shoot the Moon shingle. Movie has an unlikely roster of co-producers that includes basketball legend Earl Monroe and former New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell.

Helmer, whose Sundance buzz pic “Crazy Love” recently won the jury prize at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, draws on more than 200 hours of footage and interviews with the likes of Willis Reed, Dick Barnett, Bobby Cremins and the historian Henry Louis Gates.

Pic also exposes all the records and games at black schools that were never recorded, and highlights the white schools that risked ostracism by playing against the black colleges.

Insiders describe the project as revealing a secret and, at times, ungainly chapter of American history.

In addition to “Crazy Love,” Klores directed and produced the Latin-baseball docu “Viva Baseball!,” which aired on Spike TV, and “Ring of Fire,” the story of boxer Emile Griffith, which aired on USA.

He also wrote one-act play “Myrtle Beach,” which he’s producing with Naked Angels. John Gould Rubin is directing, and Yul Vazquez stars in the show, which opens April 12 at the Duke Theater in New York.

“Crazy Love,” the story of a twisted love affair, opens in June from Magnolia Pictures.

ESPN is only an occasional venue for documentaries, airing the Sebastian Telfair doc “Through the Fire,” which it produced, and the hip-hop docu “Ali Rap,” starring Chuck D.

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