Participant, Magnolia Pictures Buy ‘John Lewis: Good Trouble’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Participant and Magnolia Pictures have acquired North American rights to “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” a look at the life and career of the civil rights activist and congressional leader.

The film was executive produced and financed by CNN Films, AGC Studios and Time Studios. Magnolia is planning to release the film in the spring of 2020. Lewis is expected to play a key role in promoting the picture, which chronicles his social activism and legislative action as a Democratic representative from Georgia on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health-care reform and immigration. Dawn Porter, best known for “Gideon’s Army,” directed the film and produced it with Laura Michalchyshyn.

The deal is a reunion of sorts. CNN Films, Magnolia and Participant partnered on the Oscar-nominated “RBG,” which went on to gross more than $14 million at the global box office, making it one of the biggest documentary hits of 2018. CNN Films has also backed the likes of “Apollo 11,” “Three Identical Strangers,” and “Blackfish.” The company will retain North American broadcast rights, while AGC International, the international sales and distribution arm of AGC Studios, will oversee international distribution rights.

“John Lewis: Good Trouble” will employ interviews political leaders and Congressional colleagues, as well as archival footage. It will include present-day sit-downs with Lewis, who is now 79 years old.

Popular on Variety

“John Lewis is a shining example of what is great about this country and Dawn Porter has done a wonderful job chronicling his journey,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles. “We’re proud to be bringing this film to the public.”

Porter added, “John Lewis’ unwavering commitment to public service is legendary. He is the voice of reason in a turbulent time, and we need his leadership today as much as we ever have.  It is thrilling to have so many skilled and prestigious partners to launch this film into the world.  I am incredibly grateful to them all.”

In conjunction with the film’s release, Participant is looking to create an impact campaign that celebrates Representative Lewis’ iconic battle for voting rights and help in his fight to ensure that every eligible voter has access to the polls in 2020.

“After partnering on RBG, it’s exciting to be reunited with the dream team of Magnolia and CNN Films on Dawn’s incredibly powerful and inspiring film,” said Diane Weyermann, chief content officer for Participant. “I can’t think of a better moment to share the story of John Lewis and all the work he has done in his fight for equality to ensure that the voices of the people are heard.”

In total, Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films have partnered on seven films, including “Life Itself,” “Whitey,” and “Sunshine Superman. AGC Studios and CNN Films have also recently partnered for the production and distribution of “Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story.” CNN Films, AGC Studios, and Magnolia Pictures collaborated on the recent release of “Scandalous: The Untold Story of the National Enquirer.”

“CNN Films is thrilled to once again partner with Magnolia and Participant for the distribution of Dawn Porter’s wonderful film. Together with AGC and TIME Studios, this documentary is in very capable hands to share the incredible, enduring, essential legacy of John Lewis,” said Amy Entelis, executive vice president for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide.

Erika Alexander and Ben Arnon co-produced the film for Color Farm Media. Executive producers are Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann for Participant; Amy Entelis and Courtney Sexton for CNN Films; Stuart Ford for AGC Studios; Rachel Traub; and Ian Orefice and Mike Beck for Time Studios.

The deal was negotiated by Magnolia executive VP Dori Begley and Magnolia senior VP of acquisitions John Von Thaden with Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz on behalf of the filmmakers, and by Stacey Wolf, senior VP of business affairs and Kelly MacLanahan, assistant general counsel, for CNN Worldwide on behalf of CNN Films. For Participant, the deal was negotiated by senior VP of Business & Legal Affairs, Danice Woodley.