The legacy of photographer, writer, composer, activist and filmmaker Gordon Parks is the subject of a documentary scheduled to air on HBO this fall.
A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks will look at Parks’ work and his influence on other artists. The documentary debuts Nov. 15 on HBO, and will be available to stream on HBO Max.
The film is directed by John Maggio (Mr. Saturday Night), and executive produced by Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean, Alicia Keys, Jelani Cobb, Jacqueline Glover, Peter W. Kunhardt Jr. and Peter Kunhardt. The film was an official selection of the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.
Parks was Life Magazine’s first Black photographer, working from 1948 to 1972. He was renowned for his depictions of the human struggle for dignity and justice, calling his camera a weapon and using it to challenge systems of racism and poverty, and to empower Black Americans. In addition to his career in photography, he composed music, wrote memoirs and novels, and directed the 1971 film Shaft.
The film also covers the power of images to inspire others to work for social change, through the work of three contemporary photographers: Devin Allen, whose photograph of the Freddie Gray protests was featured on Time‘s cover; LaToya Ruby Frazier, who followed the Flint, Michigan water crisis for five years and recently photographed Breonna Taylor’s family for Vanity Fair; and Jamel Shabazz, whose photographs on New York’s streets form a visual history of the hip-hop era, while presenting affirming images of the community.
Other sources interviewed for the documentary include journalist Anderson Cooper, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, writer and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, filmmaker Spike Lee, historian Khalil Muhammad, New Yorker staff writer Jelani Cobb, filmmaker Nelson George, Equal Justice Initiative executive director Bryan Stevenson, actor Richard Roundtree, former associate curator of The Art Institute of Chicago Michael Raz-Russo and president of the Ford Foundation Darren Walker.
The documentary was edited and produced by Richard Lowe, and also produced by Monica Berra, George Kunhardt, Teddy Kunhardt and Matthew Henderson. The senior producer for HBO is Sara Rodriguez, and the executive producers for HBO are Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller. Parks’ photographs were supplied by The Gordon Parks Foundation.