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Mo’Nique, Isaiah Washington Drama ‘Blackbird’ Set for April 24

Robert L. Johnson’s Urban Movie Channel has acquired U.S. rights to the coming-of-age film “Blackbird,” starring Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington, Variety has learned exclusively.

Blackbird” is Mo’Nique’s first movie since 2009’s “Precious,” for which she won the Oscar for best supporting actress.

“Isaiah sent me the script and told me that I had to do,” she told Variety. “By the time I finished reading the first page, I was so moved. I felt the same way I did on page 10 of ‘Push,’ which was the original name for ‘Precious.'”

“Blackbird” will be released into 10 theaters in five markets on April 24 along with the subscription-based Urban Movie Channel. The film will also be released via VOD in August.

Patrik Ian Polk will direct the adaptation of Larry Duplechan’s novel, with the script co-written by Polk and Rikki Beadle Blair. The story centers on a church choir singer, portrayed by Julian Walker, in a small Mississippi town who feels like a misfit as he struggles with his sexual awakening and the realization that he’s gay.

Mo’Nique and Washington portray his parents. Terrell Tilford, Gary L. Gray, Kevin Allesee, Torrey Laamar, Nikki Jane and D. Woods also star.

“It’s a story that will resonate profoundly in the hearts of many, and a story that I knew, if told correctly, would create a movement and bring about change to the lives of so many people, especially within the African American and LGBT communities,” Monique said.

“Blackbird” premiered last year at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles and has been on the festival circuit since then. The film has received “best feature” honors at Outflix Memphis, Atlanta’s Out On Film, Reeling in Chicago, and the Crossroads Film Festival.

Mo’Nique said the response at film festivals over the past year has been overwhelmingly positive: “I hear people and sniffle — and during the Q&A, someone always says, ‘That’s my story up there.'”

Polk is producing through Tall Skinny Black Boy Prods., Keith Brown through Kbiz Entertainment, Washington through his Coalhouse Prods., and Carol Ann Shine. Mo’Nique is also an exec producer with her spouse Sidney Hicks.

The film was shot in Mississippi.

The Urban Movie Channel is part of Johnson’s RLJ Entertainment. Johnson is the founder of Black Entertainment Television.

“’Blackbird’ is in line with my vision for UMC to bring together the African American/urban production and talent community with a distribution channel dedicated to showcasing and supporting their creative works,” he said. “I have had the pleasure of knowing Mo’Nique since early in her career as a comedian and her appearances on BET, and I know and admire Isaiah’s work as both an actor and a producer.”

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