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Culture / Newsy

Rare Heroic Congressman Gets a Major Movie

Houston Original Died Too Soon, But His Legacy Lives On

BY // 02.05.16

Spring sees the imminent fruition of a significant political film biography bearing a fabled art-world connection. The work in question is also extraordinarily relevant in the heat of the election year. Cue Mickey Leland, A Man for All …, a decades-in-the works feature-length documentary.

Houston-based executive producer Barbara Friedman says of her magnum opus: “I had a front-row seat to this charismatic and fearless leader. He was a personal friend; my children called him Uncle Mickey. He inspired us all … We have interviewed the folks who were on the front lines with him … including Governor Ann Richards and Molly Ivins.”

Friedman, who is close to Leland’s widow, Alison, began thinking about the project just after the congressman’s death (in a 1989 plane crash while on a relief mission to Africa) as a way to explain the humanitarian legacy of Leland to his three young sons.

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Mickey Leland in Africa, circa 1980s

“It has grown into so much more than that,” she says.

She and her team — fellow producer and director Robert S. Cozens (an award-garnering documentary filmmaker who has made numerous projects for PBS), co-producer Janet Benton and interviewer John C. Brittain — have to date raised almost $200,000 of a $550,000 budget; ETA for completion is six months away. A preview screening and a call for more underwriting was hosted by SWAMP (Southwest Alternate Media Project) at Midtown’s new MATCH late last fall; SWAMP also serves as the umbrella nonprofit for the documentary’s fund-raising.

The poignant footage includes the story of Leland with his most stalwart believers, the late Dominique and John de Menil. (Step into the Wunderkammer room at The Menil Collection, and in the corner where Mrs. de Menil’s desk is you’ll see among its contents a Leland for Congress button; in another twist of fate, Leland’s former campaign headquarters is now the Bermac Building, owned by gallerist Kerry Inman and home to numerous studios).

For details or to donate, contact Barbara Friedman, 713.225.1361 or bar2free@att.net, mickeyleland.com.

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