Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Filmmaker Cries Foul over Movie

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Filmmaker Cries Foul over Movie

Article excerpt

AS AMERICANS head to their local theaters this weekend to see the new film, "White Man's Burden," one St. Louisan already knows he won't enjoy it.

Steven Byrd, a young filmmaker here, says that the movie's concept was stolen from him.

"They took my movie, plain out and out," he said.

"White Man's Burden" stars John Travolta and Harry Belafonte. It's a role reversal film; a portrait of a white man trying to succeed in a world in which blacks hold the reins of power, a world where the balance of race and power are reversed.

Although role reversal films have been done before - "Watermelon Man" and "Black Like Me" come to mind - the concept of an entire society reversed is less common. That's one reason Byrd believes that his film was hijacked.

Back in 1993 - before Travolta's latest "comeback," before I'd heard of "White Man's Burden" - I wrote a column about Byrd. At that time, he was trying to produce a film called "2012," a race-reversal film. The film was about an America in which blacks were the majority and whites were a minority and focused on the efforts of a white man trying to make it in a black world.

Byrd was a new filmmaker and was trying to produce the low-budget movie. He was financing it little by little, with his own money, loans, and the help of friends and relatives.

The idea of the film was intriguing. Not only did I write about it, USA Today also did a story, and Byrd appeared on several national TV talk shows.

I hadn't heard from Byrd since that time, although I began seeing promos for "White Man's Burden" this summer, and it did bring Byrd's story to mind.

When I talked to him recently, he told me that his film had been completed, after seven years. The stars of it aren't the world's biggest names - when you've only got $100,000 to work with, you can't get the big guys - but I had heard of some of the actors: Todd Bridges, Dick Gregory, Roy Fagan, Sherry Carter.

Byrd is still seeking a distributor, and plans to enter the film in several film festivals. Distributors regularly attend them, he said, and he hopes one will be interested.

Byrd said he sent his film to dozens of companies, hoping to find a distributor. …

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