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‘Master Of Light’: First Look At HBO Doc On Extraordinary Artist George Anthony Morton, Who Honed His Talent Behind Bars

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EXCLUSIVE: HBO Documentary Films has released a trailer for Master of Light, the award-winning film about artist George Anthony Morton, who developed his exceptional gift for portraiture while serving time in federal prison.

The film directed by Rosa Ruth Boesten premieres on HBO on Wednesday, November 16 and will stream on HBO Max. 

“[Morton] was the first of 11 children born to a 15-year-old mother,” according to a bio on the artist’s website. “His mother was incarcerated many times during his childhood, so George and his siblings often endured chaos as they were left to struggle on their own through the grinding reality of systemic poverty, incarceration and drug addiction in their family and community. Despite it all, George had a gift that was recognized by many along the way: he could draw. Making images was his escape.”

At 19 he was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison on drug charges. Behind bars, he honed his artistic talent. When he was released, after spending all of his 20s in prison, he pursued art studies and was among a handful of students accepted into the prestigious New York branch of the Florence Academy of Art. He later studied at the academy in Italy where he won competitive awards for Best Figure Drawing in 2015 and Best Portrait Drawing in 2016. In 2017 the New York Times wrote a profile about him, which is around the time Boesten, a Dutch filmmaker, first heard about Morton. 

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“I learned about George through a mutual friend who met George in New York and told me about his story,” Boesten told Deadline at SXSW, where her film premiered. “He just had a New York Times article that came out and I read about the story and was just blown away by his artwork. And that’s when I reached out, and that’s where it started for me.”

George Anthony Morton and Rosa Ruth Boesten pose with award for the Documentary Feature Competition for ‘Master of Light’ at the SXSW Film Awards on March 15, 2022 in Austin, Texas.

George Anthony Morton and Rosa Ruth Boesten pose with award for the Documentary Feature Competition for ‘Master of Light’ at the SXSW Film Awards on March 15, 2022 in Austin, Texas.

Photo by Rich Fury/Getty Images for SXSW

Master of Light won the Grand Jury Award for Documentary Feature at SXSW, and went on to claim the cinematography prize at the Atlanta Film Festival and the award for Best First Feature at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival in the U.K. On Friday, November 11, the film will make its New York debut at DOC NYC.

“Incarcerated for 10 years for dealing drugs, self-taught classical painter George Anthony Morton returns to his hometown of Kansas City [Mo.] to confront his damaged relationship with his mother, who has serious legal problems of her own,” the DOC NYC program explains. “As George explores African influences on realism and the style of the Dutch Old Masters, filmmaker Rosa Ruth Boesten captures the vulnerabilities and unexpected challenges in his quest to establish himself as a professional artist and a man in the new season of his life.”

In the trailer, Morton alludes to his fraught relationship with his mom. He says, “Momma set me up to go to prison instead of her.” His mother comments, “All I wanted was somebody to love me… What have I done that’s so bad that you can’t forgive?”

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Poster for 'Master of Light'

HBO Documentary Films

Master of Light is ultimately a story of reconciliation and healing. Morton repeats to himself, “I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”

Executive producers of the film are Jody Allen, Rocky Collins, Jannat Gargi, Ruth Johnson and Geoff Martz. The film is produced by Roger Ross Williams, Anousha Nzume, and Ilja Roomans (Williams, Nzume, along with Boesten, editor Ephraim Kirkwood, composer Gary Gunn and EP Geoff Martz will take part in a Q&A following the DOC NYC screening).

Williams, the Oscar-winning director of Music by Prudence, came on board as producer after Boesten asked him to watch a teaser of her footage.

“I was like, ‘What? Oh my God, this guy is so incredibly talented. And this filmmaker is so incredibly talented,’ and it was so beautiful,” Williams recalls. “I remember I called my husband and I said, ‘You’ve got to see something. I just discovered an incredible talent and a powerful story. I’ve got to make this film.’”

Williams calls the documentary an underdog story about “the power of art to heal and transform you out of your predicament.”

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An important theme to the film is the way Morton paints his subjects, rendering African American people with a dignity not often seen in art of the past two or three centuries. During his studies and travels around the world, the artist discovered there was an earlier period in history, before the systematic dehumanizing of Black people began with the Transatlantic slave trade, when renowned artists painted People of Color in an ennobling manner.

“The more I went into classical art and looking at the images we would see these depictions of Black people in a more elevated and dignified way, and it would just be kind of hidden,” Morton told Deadline. “That was very, very eye-opening for me because I hadn’t been shown anything like that in my textbooks at school, in the world museums. It’s just not put out front and we had to travel far and wide and ask museums to pull pictures out of storage. It was quite a journey.”

Back in March, at SXSW, he was still adjusting to the idea that he had become the subject of a documentary.

“It’s been quite overwhelming, because the film is so immersive in my own healing journey,” he said. “It was a beautiful struggle, I would say, very beautiful struggle. But I’m honored for the opportunity. It’s really humbling.”

Watch the trailer above.

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Netflix & Paramount+ To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’ ; TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome With Toon Series; ‘One Piece Film Red’ London Takeover — Global Briefs

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Netflix & Paramount+ UK To Profile ‘Strip Search Caller’

Netflix and Paramount+ have struck a first of its kind-of-deal over a true crime documentary telling the story of the strip search caller in the U.S. Paramount+ has taken UK rights to Pervert: The Hunt for the Strip Search Caller and Netflix has rest of world on the doc, which it will be calling Don’t Pick Up the Phone. The deal is believed to be the first time two streamers have worked in such a way in the UK and rest of world. The doc tells the shocking story of a hoax caller who targeted fast food restaurants across the U.S. – posing as a police officer investigating a theft, the caller instructed managers to strip-search the young female employees he said were suspects. For many victims, what began as a humiliating strip search escalated into sexual abuse.

Canada’s TVOKids Spotlights Down Syndrome In Animated Series ‘Griffin And Turner’

EXCLUSIVE: Ontario, Canada’s TVOkids and Big Jump Entertainment are working on 2D-animated series Griffin and Turner. Based on real Canadian brothers who a significant online following, the show follows the supportive pair as they, their friends and family undertake personal challenges but focus on the journey rather than winning. Turner has Down syndrome, and TVOKids executive producer Kirsten Hurd noted the series has been developed in consultation with the Down syndrome community. Producer Big Jump is behind shows such as Shutterbug and Big Words, Small Stories.

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London Gets ‘One Piece Film Red’ Takeover After Record Haul

To celebrate the record-breaking haul of One Piece Film Red in the UK, the Straw Hat Pirates are set for a takeover of iconic London locations on November 26. Via local distributor Anime Limited and Toei Animation, the cast and memorable scenes from the series will be projected onto the County Hall of London, opposite the London Eye as well as other key locations. One Piece Film: Red has grossed over £800,000 in the UK and Ireland since it released earlier this month, making it the biggest of the long-running franchise. A phenomenon in Japan, One Piece Film Red has grossed $162M to date worldwide 



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‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, ‘Belfast’ Top 2022 EFA Arts & Crafts Awards

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Edward Berger’s All Quiet On The Western Front and Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast top the European Film Academy’s Excellence Awards honoring achievement in the arts and crafts categories, the winners of which were announced on Wednesday.

Belfast won best European Production Design for Jim Clay, whose credits include Children Of Men, for which he won a Bafta in 2006, and Murder On The Orient Express.

The drama, set against the backdrop of the beginnings of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland in 1969, also won best European Costume Design for Charlotte Walter (Blithe Spirit, Misbehaviour)

Netflix-backed German WWI drama All Quiet On The Western Front won best European Make-up & Hair for Heike Merker, and Best European Special Effects for Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller and Markus Frank.

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 In other categories, best European Cinematography was won by Kate McCullough for her work on Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language drama The Quiet Girl.

Best European Editing went to Özcan Vardar and Eytan İpeker for Turkish director Emin Alper’s drama Burning Days.

Polish composer Paweł Mykietyn won best European Original Score went for Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO.

Best European Sound went to Simone Paolo Olivero, Paolo Benvenuti, Benni Atria, Marco Saitta, Ansgar Frerich & Florian Holzner for Michelangelo Frammartino’s cave exploration drama The Hole.

The winners, which are decided by a special expert jury, will receive their awards at the European Film Awards ceremony on 10 December in Reykjavík.

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Jennifer Lopez’s Social Media Mysteriously Goes Dark

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EXCLUSIVE: The actress, producer and top-selling performing artist’s social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter have suddenly gone dark in their featured/cover images.

Reps for Jennifer Lopez were unavailable for comment, but we hear from others that The Hustlers and Marry Me actress is on the verge of announcing a new project.

Here’s a look at her Instagram tonight:

While Lopez’s Instagram had erased all posts, a trail of her previous postings remained on Facebook, Tik Tok and Twitter. Across all four social media portals, Lopez counts close to 347M followers, the majority of that coming from her Instagram.

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Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions in June 2021 signed a multi-year first-look deal with Netflix spanning feature films, TV series and unscripted content, with an emphasis on projects that support diverse female actors, writers and filmmakers. Lopez co-runs Nuyorican Productions with her producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas.

Lopez scored her best opening for a live-action movie at the domestic box office with STX’s 2019 stripper caper Hustlers which debuted to $33.1 million, and grossed $105M stateside, $157.6M worldwide.  As a recording artist, Lopez has sold over 70 million albums, with J.Lo became her bestselling album with 3.8M copies sold in the U.S. and 12M global. Her Netflix thriller The Mother from director Niki Caro is set to debut in May. Her romantic comedy Shotgun Wedding with Josh Duhamel will hit Prime Video on Jan. 27.

On Facebook, one of her followers, Steffany Merino wrote, “What’s happened? Hope you and your wonderful family are ok. I’ll pray for your health and safety.”

Again, we hear something special is in the works in the next few days.



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