EXCLUSIVE: Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan) and Cobra Kai star Martin Kove will serve as executive producers on biopic I Am A Man, about Native American Chief Standing Bear.
Currently in development, longtime Anonymous Content exec Paul Green (The Loft) is producing the project with Andrew Troy (Growing Up Smith) who has scripted and will direct. Troy has adapted the script from book I Am A Man by Joseph Starita.
Set in Nebraska in 1879, the film will tell the dramatic and inspirational story of Ponca Chief Standing Bear, who, after experiencing decades of maltreatment and disenfranchisement, successfully argued in U.S. District Court in Omaha that Native Americans are “persons within the meaning of the law”, thus becoming the first Native American judicially granted civil rights under American law.
Standing Bear, who went on to become a civil rights advocate, is reported to have told the court during the landmark case: “This hand is not the color of yours, but if I prick it, the blood will flow, and I shall feel pain. The blood is of the same color as yours. God made me, and I am a man.”
In 2019, the U.S. government unveiled a statue dedicated to Standing Bear in the Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol building. He became the first Native American person inducted to the Hall. Director Troy was among guests in attendance at the unveiling ceremony.
Troy explained: “When I finished the first draft of the screenplay, I met with the Ponca Tribe for the first time. They invited me to a tribal council meeting in Nebraska to share details about my endeavor. They were overjoyed to hear about my efforts in sharing their most cherished story about Chief Standing Bear to the world. Shortly thereafter, and after reading my screenplay, on August 11th 2017 the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska unanimously passed Resolution 17-71 in full support of this film. For Native tribes, a formal resolution of support is considered the most important and sacred action that they can make, and thus I am honored to have their blessing and trust.”
He continued: “My producing team and I had just approved the final production-ready draft of the screenplay and we were getting ready to start the process of finding a buyer/distributor the week Covid-19 struck. It’s only been six-eight weeks since we finally fully re-started our efforts, after more than five years in development.”
Also executive-producing the film will be Warren Anzalone, Sheila Finegan and Jeff Smith. Co-producers will be Jennifer Wu, Archie Hernandez, Paula Munoz Vega and Pius Savage.
Sizemore said: “I had no idea what I was about to read. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. I read it three times in a row and wept every time. I’ve never been that emotionally impacted by a screenplay the way I have been reading I Am A Man. This film must be made and the Hollywood community needs to stand behind this poignant yet uplifting story about Chief Standing Bear’s life.”
He added: “For years, I’ve been eager to support a meaningful project as an executive producer, on the other side of the camera…My grandmother was a full-blooded Apache. I take on this project in memory of her legacy and the struggles all Native’s have been forced to endure.”
Kove commented: “I’ve waited my entire career to find a screenplay like I Am A Man. The story rivals the intensity and historical significance of a film like Speilberg’s Lincoln as well as a great civil rights story such as Martin Luther King, even touching upon social issues that are relevant today. It is also another necessary missing chapter of the great American West.”
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