Docs

HBO slates feature doc on pioneering Black supermodel Donyale Luna

HBO Documentary Films is partnering with Oscar-winning production company Lightbox and Jeff Friday Media on an as-yet-untitled feature doc on the life and career of Donyale Luna (pictured), one of ...
June 14, 2022

HBO Documentary Films is partnering with Oscar-winning production company Lightbox and Jeff Friday Media on an as-yet-untitled feature doc on the life and career of Donyale Luna (pictured), one of the first Black supermodels.

Directed by Nailah Jefferson (The Oystermen of Pointe La Hache), the film will chronicle Luna’s rise from a working-class childhood in Detroit (where she was born Peggy Ann Freeman in 1945) to the jet set of New York, London, Paris and Rome as a cover model for such leading magazines as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle in the 1960s and ’70s. During this time, she also pursued an acting career, appearing in films by such major directors as Michelangelo Antonioni (Blow-up), Federico Fellini (Fellini Satyricon) and Otto Preminger (the ’60s camp classic Skidoo), and became a favorite subject for the legendary Surrealist artist Salvador DalĂ­, before dying of a heroin overdose in 1979.

The doc will be the second project from the Feature Documentary Initiative, a program to foster and support emerging African American filmmakers created jointly by Lightbox and the HBO-sponsored American Black Film Festival (ABFF). The first, Muta’Ali Muhammad’s Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn, aired on HBO in August 2020.

“We are very pleased to continue this partnership with Lightbox and HBO Documentary Films,” said Jeff Friday, CEO of Jeff Friday Media and founder of the ABFF. “It empowers newcomers with the access and ability to share their stories with the world.”

“It’s a dream to tell the story of Donyale Luna — an iconic woman whose legacy and magic deserve celebration,” added director Nailah Jefferson, whose narrative short Plaquemines aired on HBO in 2016 after being selected as a finalist in the ABFF shorts program. “Black women’s historical contributions have often been forgotten and distorted, [and] I’m honored to have the opportunity to uplift Donyale’s story and finally celebrate her brilliance.”

The upcoming doc is a production of HBO Documentary Films and Lightbox in association with Jeff Friday Media and the ABFF. Melissa Kramer and Isoul Hussein Harris are producing, with Melanie Sharee serving as co-producer. Jeff Friday will executive produce, along with Lightbox’s Jonathan and Simon Chinn.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for HMV.com. As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.

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