According to NOLA.com, Fantasia Barrino will star in a biopic about gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Mahalia (Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty. Is it wrong to make that joke about a gospel singer? Ah, well. . .) was not only a gospel singer, but a civil rights activist as well.
Mahalia Jackson led a pretty dramatical life; She was often criticized for branching out from pure gospel music, and had a tumultuous love life. That must have helped her project the emotion and strength that she did. I swear, seeing her sing on film is always amazing. She had a small role in one of my favorite movies of all time, the 1959 version of “Imitation of Life.” Seriously, I’ve seen this movie like 30 times, and I always cry. Omigod.
Check out Mahalia’s riveting version of “Trouble of the World” from the one of the final scenes of the movie (spoiler alert! But really, the movie is 50 years old. Get over it):
Producers have high hopes for this film, based on the Jules Schwerin book “Go Tell It: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel.” In a film synopsis posted on the New Orleans Times-Picayune, producers say:
We envision this film as a black woman’s ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter,’ a colorful rags-to-riches story of a great talent who achieves enormous success and survives personal tragedy.
While the film’s producers have gotten the rights to 18 of Mahalia Jackson’s songs, this biopic is not a musical. In a move that many see as a slap in the face, the producers have also decided to have Fantasia lip-synch to remastered versions of Mahalia’s songs, instead of remake them. This route would make the movie more “Ray” than “Cadillac Records.” This would also make this film almost completely reliant on Fantasia’s acting, not her voice, for its emotional depth. I’m not so sure that will be easy for her. If you ask me, it’s definitely going to take a lot for viewers to see Fantasia climb into the role. Her voice is so famous (she is an American Idol, after all) but it’s completely different from Mahalia Jackson’s.
Here are my 3 questions about “Mahalia:”
1. Was J-Hud too busy? For real, she looks and sounds way more like Mahalia. Even with her new super-skinny bod. Maybe she didn’t want to put on the weight? I guess their “rivalry” will intensify if this movie does well.
2. Why does the movie title have an exclamation point? Are we in the ninth grade? Get me excited about your movie by casting it well, producing it well, and directing it well. This exclamation point makes me want to work my “jazz hands.” FAIL
3. With New Orleans being billed as “Hollywood South,” and Mahalia as one of the city’s most famous daughters, why isn’t “Mahalia!” being filmed in NOLA? I’m gonna need to see some bayou scenes and a streetcar, producers!
What do you think about Fantasia’s casting in “Mahalia (EXCLAMATION POINT)?” Can she pull it off? And, will you go see this biopic this fall? Please share your thoughts below- I love hearing from you. And if you liked this post, please “Like” it! xx