Lee Daniels’ Next Film Is a Documentary on the Apollo Theater — and He’s Asking for Your Memories


When you hear that a documentary filmmaker needs “help” from prospective audiences, a reasonable assumption would be that that thing in question is money, and that by going to their Kickstarter, you can help make a certain small-budget film a reality. But, as Deadline reports, Lee Daniels is looking for something else from people who might be interested in the subject of his upcoming film: memories. For, Daniels’ next project is a documentary about Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater, and for it, with the help of Apollo President and CEO Jonelle Procope, he’s asking people with dear or vivid recollections of/footage and memorabilia from the spot to contribute. The two said in a statement:

We are asking members of the community who have been to the Apollo, who may have parents or grandparents or other family members or friends who have done so, to help us find any material — audience footage, photographs, or other memories that we can use in our documentary film. We have established a website for anyone who wants to submit. We will, of course, respect everybody’s ownership of their property.

Variety quotes Daniels mentioning how he, too, used to go to the Apollo as a kid, and how he’s “honored to be entrusted with the story of this incredible American iconic institution” for his first documentary. The film will explore both the personal and historical importance of the theater, which opened as the Apollo Theater in 1934 (though the building was erected in 1914, and initially was theater with a “whites only” policy before it eventually became the black cultural hub known as the Apollo). The theater showcased the likes of James Brown, Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, and Tina Turner, and saw Ella Fitzgerald and Jimi Hendrix getting recognition winning the the Apollo’s amateur night contests before they went off to become international stars. It continues to be one of America’s leading cultural centers.

Watch the video from the website Daniels and Procope established for the project (titled, for now at least, The Apollo Theater Film Project):