Will Smith and James Lassiter developing project

Overbrook Entertainment’s Will Smith, James Lassiter and Ken Stovitz are moving ahead on developing a feature for Sony based on modern-day explorer and African-American neuroscience professor Dr. S. Allen Counter.

Debbie Allen is also producing and Farhad Safinia (“Apocalypto”) has been tapped to pen the script.

Smith, who’s worked with Counter in the past on such projects as Haiti relief, is only attached as a producer at this point.

Counter began his research on indigenous peoples in the 1970s in Surinam on the rain forest descendants of 17th and 18th century African slaves. Along with David Evans, he produced a documentary on the culture and history of the rain forest peoples called “I Shall Moulder Before I Shall Be Taken.”

Counter traveled to northern Greenland in 1986 on a scientific mission and found the sons of the North Pole co-discoverers Robert E. Peary and African-American Matthew Henson, then raised funds to finance the journey of these sons and their families to the U.S. to meet their American relatives. Counter also sought recognition for Henson’s contributions to Arctic exploration.

Counter discovered a group of African-descended people in the Andes in 1993 and produced another documentary, “Lost Africans in the Andes.” He has also written “North Pole Legacy: Black, White and Eskimo” and “I Sought My Brother: An Afro-American Reunion.”

Counter is currently the director of the Harvard Foundation of Harvard University and professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. He was also appointed Consul General of Sweden in Boston and New England in 2004.

Overbrook produced Sony’s redo “The Karate Kid,” starring Smith’s son Jaden. Smith is returning this fall to topline Sony’s “Men in Black III,” due out in 2012.

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