Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson is joining the Sundance documentary Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project as executive producer and voice of Giovanni’s poems throughout the film.
Going to Mars, directed by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, premieres Friday at the festival in U.S. Documentary Competition. It examines the life and work of Giovanni, who emerged in the 1960s as one of the nation’s foremost poets and a leader of the Black Arts Movement. She has won seven NAACP Image Awards and has been named one of Oprah’s 25 “Living Legends.”
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“I’m thrilled to join Michèle and Joe in bringing Nikki’s remarkable work to life on screen,” Henson said in a statement. “Interpreting and giving voice to her powerful words was a revelatory and emotional process, and moved me completely. This film reflects Nikki’s vibrance and legacy in all its complexity, and I am honored to be a part of it.”
The filmmakers noted, “Taraji’s grace, generosity, and creative skills are legendary. We were swept away by her embrace and complex interpretation of Nikki’s poetry. Having her join us is truly the Universe at work!”
In addition to Friday’s premiere, the documentary will screen at Sundance on January 21, 22, 24 and 27. It will be available through the festival’s online portal from January 24-29. Going to Mars is an acquisition title at the festival, with Cinetic Media handling worldwide sales.
“With Going to Mars, Brewster and Stephenson craft a vision fit for the radical imagination of Nikki Giovanni,” the Sundance program observes. “Present-day Giovanni reckons with the inevitable passing of time, while an evocative melding of vérité and archival images act as openings into her mindscape, transcending time and place. The film is imaginative and dreamlike, akin to the way Giovanni’s words are hair-raising in their power to summon unrealized ways of seeing. The Afro-futuristic lens honors Giovanni’s complexity and transports us on a journey through Black liberation from the perspective of one of America’s most acclaimed and beloved writers, a profound artist and activist. Next stop, Mars.”
The film is produced by Joe Brewster, Michèle Stephenson, and Tommy Oliver, and executive produced by Codie Elaine Oliver and Taraji P. Henson. Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project features an original score by Samora Pinderhudges and Christopher Pattishall, cinematography by Greg Harriott, and is edited by Terra Jean Long and Lawrence Jackman.
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