A documentary about the life of the first African-American mayor of the city of Atlanta is making the film festival rounds, including at DOC NYC, the Pan African Film Festival, the Cleveland International Film Festival and, most recently, the 42nd annual Atlanta Film Festival earlier this month.
“Maynard,” directed by Samuel D. Pollard, who has worked on projects with Morehouse College alum and director Spike Lee, is about the late Maynard Holbrook Jackson, the 54th and 56th mayor of Atlanta, and his life as a politician, trendsetter, husband, father, civic servant and groundbreaker in Atlanta.
The documentary, brought to the screen by Auburn Avenue Films, the production company co-owned and operated by Maynard Jackson III and Wendy Eley Jackson, will make its commercial debut at the Plaza Theatre at 4:45 p.m. May 4.
“I’m proud of my dad, and his story needs to be told,” Jackson, the late mayor’s only son and an executive producer on the film, said about the purpose and mission of the film. “The Maynard template is something that needs to be looked at. On a personal level, I grew up watching my dad impact his vision for the city of Atlanta.”
“You get to hear from the people that Maynard Jackson let into his heart and into his world,” added Eley Jackson who along with being a senior producer is also a writer on the film. “Maynard gave more than he got, and, when you talk about what democracy truly is, Maynard Jackson comes to mind. People are still benefiting from the things he was able to do.”
The man whose name is one of two that graces the busiest airport in the country, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, did more than start what is now a 44-year consecutive string of African-American mayors in Georgia’s capital city.
Jackson is credited with expanding the number of African-American police officers in the city while also being a staunch advocate for inclusion of black businesses on city projects, including the airport. During his third term, he also helped oversee and successfully secure the bid for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. All of this and more is explained in further detail in the documentary, Eley Jackson says.
“By no stretch of the imagination has this been a cakewalk,” she laughed. “Everybody wants to talk about what Maynard did. This film will get into the understanding of what his actions and thoughts were as well.”
The film includes interviews and insights from former Atlanta Mayor and former U.S Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, former President Bill Clinton, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Maynard Jackson’s widow and WABE contributor Valerie Jackson, to name a few.
“Not only do we get to tell his story, but we are in the industry that allows us to create Georgia content,” said Jackson III, who says that he and his wife employed 40 local musicians, producers, writers and staff for this project. Jackson III, an accomplished drummer, is also featured in the film’s musical moments.
The Jacksons made a point of having “Maynard” make its nonfestival debut at the Plaza Theatre, the city’s oldest and only remaining independent theater.
“We are an indie so we’re supporting an indie theater,” Eley Jackson said. “Everything about this project has gone against the norm, but there has been divine intervention.”
“He gave his life for Atlanta,” Jackson III said about his father, who entered Morehouse College at the age of 14. “Things just started coming together organically, and it means a lot that we will be able to teach young people about this.”
“We need to spotlight and illuminate our leaders.”