Blair Underwood will narrate and executive produce Deborah Riley Draper’s documentary “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice,” which explores the stories of 18 African American Olympians at the 1936 Summer Games, Variety has learned exclusively.
The film is set against the turbulent atmosphere of a racially divided America with the 16 men and two women torn between boycotting Hitler’s Olympics and participating in the Games. They represented a country that considered them second-class citizens and competed in a country (Germany) that rolled out the red carpet in spite of an undercurrent of Aryan superiority and anti-Semitism.
Jesse Owens is by far the best known of the group for nabbing four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics. Other medal winners included John Woodruff, who won the 800 meter race; Jackie Robinson’s brother Mack, who took a silver in the 200 meters; Archie Williams, who was victorious at 400 meters; and Cornelius Johnson, who led an American sweep in the high jump.
The film includes rarely-seen footage and interviews with athletes and spectators from the 1936 Olympics, as well as other former Olympians, including Isaiah Thomas and Carl Lewis. The filmmakers are also working with cultural and academic institutions to help celebrate the 80th anniversary of the 1936 Olympics and plan to screen the film in the spring in Brazil, prior to the upcoming Olympiad in that nation.
“‘Olympic Pride/American Prejudice’ is an inspiring and gripping documentary that delves into a poignant, yet forgotten chapter in American history,” Underwood said. “I am honored to join Deborah Riley Draper and her creative team in bringing this gem to the screen.”
Underwood won a 2008 Grammy for best spoken word album (“An Inconvenient Truth”). He is currently recurring on ABC’s “Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“Olympic Pride, American Prejudice” is also executive produced by Dr. Amy Tiemann and Michael A. Draper, and written by Deborah Riley Draper, who produced the documentary “Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution” through her production company Coffee Bluff Pictures.