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‘Roots’ icon gets salute in ‘Kunta Kinteh Island’

18kuntaBen-500New Orleans will host screenings of a new documentary film, "Kunta Kinteh Island: Coming Home Without Shackles" on February 25th and 26th. The film honors the celebrated captive African, Kunta Kinteh, who gained worldwide recognition in the 1977 ABC television series "Roots."

Those who have lined up in support of the documentary include writer, director and actor Tyler Perry, National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial, and many other entertainment, civic and spiritual leaders. The film is also being widely supported by academia, with planned tour stops at institutions such as Harvard University, Morehouse College, Wayne State University, Northeastern University and St. Augustine High School in New Orleans.

"I felt the heart and emotion of our rich history in this brilliantly made and powerful documentary, Kunta Kinteh Island," said Tyler Perry, owner of Tyler Perry Studios. "I am very proud of my long time friend and composer for recognizing the importance of retelling this story to this generation. I can't wait for everyone to see it!"

Produced by Elvin Ross Studios, the film was made to educate a new generation of Americans about the legendary Mandinka warrior Kunta, and as a philanthropic effort to raise funds for the Albreda Jeffereh Primary School in Kinteh's impoverished Gambian village.

The documentary traces the life of Kunta Kinteh; his journey to America; his brutal enslavement; his triumphant survival through harrowing circumstances; focuses on his lasting family legacy through profiles of his relatives in the village of Juffereh, Gambia, West Africa today; and shares his recent symbolic return to the point of his captivity – James Island in Gambia – which was formally renamed Kunta Kinteh Island on February 6, 2011.

"Kunta Kinteh Island: Coming Home Without Shackles," is a powerful intersection of African and American history," said Morial.

"Elvin Ross, in his directorial debut, shines a light on this fascinating story that celebrates the strength and spirit of the Gambian people, and introduces this important part of history to a new generation."

Special guests are featured throughout the epic documentary, including the noted actor Ben Vereen, who played the beloved character 'Chicken George' in "Roots"; singer Jermaine Jackson of music's Jackson Family; His Excellency Yahya Jammeh, President of Gambia; and members of the Kinteh family who still reside in Kunta Kinteh's tribal village in Gambia to this day.

"This documentary is a needed and significant reminder of the African Holocaust," said Vereen, who plays an acting part in the documentary as its narrator and who also offers interview commentary in the film.

Ross made the film as a labor of love, after years of offering varied support to the Kinteh family and uncovering a unique perspective they had of their famed ancestor, Kunta. Ross felt a deep sense of urgency to complete the dynamic picture of Kinteh that the vast majority of the world was not privy to see.

"The fact that generations of Americans have not heard this story at all or have only heard a small portion of it through the 'Roots' series, meant there was a historical void that I felt compelled to fill in making this film," said Ross, director, executive producer and composer of "Kunta Kinteh Island."

"I also wanted the Kinteh family's generosity in sharing Kunta's life with me to benefit the condition of their lives and further his legacy."

The Kunta Kinteh Island educational film tour will visit multiple cities across the U.S. and consists of three primary types of philanthropic events in each city: a red carpet screening of the documentary, an educational event, or a faith-based gathering. The New Orleans event consists of three screenings – one at Layola University on Monday, Feb. 25th at 7 p.m.; one at the St, Augustine Senior High School at 10 a.m. on the 26th; and the final screening will be a black tie, red carpet affair at the Audubon Tea Room at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, February 26th.

The events in each city will feature celebrity and VIP guests, and offer a first opportunity to view the film and to lend financial support to the Elvin Ross Foundation. The Foundation will provide general funding, books and solar laptops to the primary school in Kunta Kinteh's village in Gambia.

Select cities will also host black tie galas or thoughtful panel discussions on the documentary, to raise additional funds for the Gambian school. Visit www.elvinross.com for details of the New Orleans events and VIP attendees.

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