Filmmaker Profile: Avon Kirkland Discusses Legacy of Sam Cooke

Posted on February 26, 2010

Documentary filmmaker Avon Kirkland didn’t follow the typical path to filmmaking – earning a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Washington University in St. Louis and working as a research scientist and educational publishing executive before starting a career in television in 1972. Since then, his work as a producer, director, and writer has focused on creating films that explore the rich history and culture of African Americans and their contributions. His work has included numerous ground-breaking projects such as Up & Coming, a 25-part drama series about an African-American family struggling between working- and middle-class in San Francisco; Booker, a one-hour drama based on the childhood of Booker T. Washington; and numerous other films that aired on American Masters and public television including Simple Justice, Street Soldiers, and Ralph Ellison: An American Journey

More recently, Kirkland played a pivotal role as executive producer of Sam Cooke: Crossing Over, on which he worked with producer/director John Antonelli to secure completion funding from ITVS. The film looks at the musical and political significance of composer, performer, and pioneering pop music entrepreneur Sam Cooke and the circumstances that led to his murder. Check out this video where Kirkland explains the impact and importance of the legendary singer.    

Learn more about this film >>

Read our interview with John Antonelli from last month >>


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