By Maria Saporta
A trailer of the “MAYNARD” movie was unveiled Saturday in the visitor’s center of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
The documentary depicts the life of Atlanta’s first African-American mayor – Maynard Jackson Jr. – a leader who was larger than life in Atlanta and the nation.
The movie is undergoing final edits, according to filmmakers Maynard Jackson III and his wife, Wendy Eley Jackson of Auburn Avenue Films.
The documentary will be screened at a national film festival in a couple of months – a requirement for it to be eligible for the Academy Awards.
The Jacksons then promised the documentary will premiere in Atlanta shortly thereafter, even though those plans have not been finalized.
The documentary, directed by Academy Award nominee Sam Pollard, will touch on several of high points of Jackson’s life, including how he launched the concept of minority-majority joint ventures with the building of what was then known as Hartsfield International Airport in order to provide economic opportunities to African-Americans and other minorities. The Jackson name was added to the airport’s name after his death in 2003.
Georgia Public Broadcasting will serve as the presenting station for public broadcasting systems for the film and an educational partner for MAYNARD.
Jackson III woke up one morning a few years ago knowing he needed to do a documentary about his father. He remembered one of his father’s sayings that “anything worth having is worth struggling for.”
The Jacksons and associates then launched a fund-raising drive to help pay for the filming and productions.
“We had a $1.5 million budget, and we are few hundred thousand dollars short, but the money has been pledged,” Wendy Jackson said.
Attending the screening were veterans of the Atlanta’s civil rights era as well as many who had worked closely with Mayor Jackson during his three mayoral terms. Among the people present included Aaron Turpeau, Constance Curry, Elaine and Miles Alexander, Judy Forté, Bunnie Jackson Ransom and Maynard Jackson Jr.’s youngest sister – Connie Jackson Carter.
The documentary highlights how Maynard Jackson was only 14 years old when he first attended Morehouse College, graduating when he was 18 (an age when many students are just starting college).
At the age of 35, he became the youngest person ever to be elected mayor of Atlanta – serving two consecutive terms from 1974 to 1982. He then he served a third term (from 1990 to 1994) after Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young’s two consecutive terms. During his third term in office, Atlanta won its bid to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.
His son said he was inspired to make the documentary because he could not bear to see all of his father’s accomplishments to be forgotten.
“It’s more than just a documentary, it’s a movement,” said Wendy Jackson, explaining how Georgia Public Broadcasting is helping develop an educational curriculum around the movie. “One of the things you’ll really learn is how Atlanta was at the precipice of a lot of change.”
When asked whether the documentary covered some of the more difficult stories during and after the Jackson administrations, she said it did.
“We don’t sugar-coat it,” she said. “It’s not just about his glory and his peaks. It has his valleys as well.”
Ransom got up to say how proud she was of her son and daughter-in-law for making the movie.
Then the late mayor’s sister stood up. “I want to thank you all for bringing this film together,” Carter said. “It brought the family together. There were some things that were unresolved.”
The Jacksons already are working on their next projects. They have optioned the television rights of the book: “Where Peachtree Street Meets Sweet Auburn,” written by Gary Pomerantz. The book explores the parallel lives of Mayor Maynard Jackson’s family and Mayor Ivan Allen Jr.’s family – providing an in depth look of the segregated lives of black and white Atlanta and how they eventually intersected.
“Gary and my father became friends through the interviewing process,” Maynard III said. “Dad told Gary about his feelings towards me…about some of my growing pains. He wished he had supported my music career. Instead he was trying to get me to go to Morehouse and become a lawyer.
“In doing this documentary, I was able to live out my father’s pursuit for everyone to have access to opportunity,” he said. “In doing so, I’ve been able to create another career by telling his story on film.”
Auburn Avenue Films also is partnering again with director Sam Pollard to do a documentary about the volatile year – 1963.
By the way, one of the best lines in the trailer is from Maynard Jackson himself when he says: “You don’t have to be crazy to be mayor – but it helps.”