New York, NY (July 14, 2020) — Today, the Moving Picture Institute (MPI) in association with BET, announce production of a new feature-length film inspired by the work of criminal justice reform advocate Kemba Smith. Based on Kemba’s life story, the BET and MPI Original film, titled TBD, will focus on themes paramount in today’s national conversations, including institutional racism, racial inequality, and the strong need for criminal justice and prison reform. The film will have its television premiere on BET with additional launch and distribution plans to be announced at a later date. Principal photography is slated to begin in 2021.
“We are excited to partner with the Moving Picture Institute on The Kemba Smith Story. With projects like Miss Virginia, the company’s objectives align with BET’s ongoing commitment to producing original and compelling stories focused on civil justice and social change,” said Lorisa Bates, BET’s VP of Content Strategy, Co-Productions, and Multiplatform. “We look forward to telling more of these stories and supporting content aimed to help address and eradicate core issues that perpetuate racism and racial inequities in America.”
“The Moving Picture Institute is thrilled to collaborate with BET to tell the true story of Kemba Smith's courageous fight for criminal justice reform,” said Rob Pfaltzgraff, President of MPI. “BET shares in MPI's passion to create original content that educates and inspires audiences to take action on topics of the greatest importance to our national consciousness.”
"The TIME IS NOW for sharing stories that amplify the need for criminal justice reform, I am excited to be partnering with MPI and BET. It was the black press that told my story back in the 90's and since my release I've been sharing my story hoping to influence the masses. Hopefully, this project will be able to touch more people than I ever could," said Kemba Smith.
At 23 years old, Kemba, who was 7 months pregnant, was charged as a co-conspirator to her abusive college boyfriend’s drug-trafficking crimes and sentenced to 24.5 years in federal prison with no opportunity for parole. Often labeled the “poster child” for reversing a disturbing trend in the rise of lengthy sentences for first-time, non-violent drug offenders, Kemba’s story was featured on a variety of news outlets. The support prompted then President Clinton to commute her sentence in December 2000, after having served 6 and a half years in prison.
Unfortunately, many women like Kemba are still incarcerated today. Her story represents hundreds of women who were harshly sentenced, due to the “war on drugs,” as though they were the kingpins of drug rings when really they played small roles or were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since her release, Kemba has dedicated her life to sharing her story of redemption and resilience in an effort to end mass incarceration and empower women and today’s youth to choose a healthier path in life.
From MPI, Stacey Parks, Lana Link, and Rob Pfaltzgraff will produce. MPI’s Nick Reid, Kemba Smith, and BET’s Maureen Guthman and Constance Orlando will executive produce. BET’s Jon Marc Sandifer and Lorisa Bates are co-executive producing; MPI’s Hannah Earl and BET’s John Baldasare and Courtney Elder serve as consulting producers. The search for a screenwriter and director is currently underway.