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Berlinale: BBC Films Boards Documentary on Singer Teddy Pendergrass

Variety logo Variety 2/10/2017 Robert Mitchell
© Provided by Variety

BBC Films will co-finance a feature documentary on the life of legendary R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass. The film, titled “Pendergrass,” is being introduced to buyers for pre-sales by international sales agent Content Media at the European Film Market alongside the Berlin Film Festival. It is set to go into production in April.

“Pendergrass” will be directed and produced by BAFTA-winner Olivia Lichtenstein for her label Storyvault Films. Piers Tempest of Tempo Productions and Ian Flooks of Wasted Talent will also serve as producers.

BBC Films’ Joe Oppenheimer will act as executive producer alongside Shep Gordon (Pendergrass’ former manager), Daniel Markus and Allan Strahl.

“From Olivia’s earliest pitch, we knew that this was a story demanding to be told,” said Oppenheimer.

The singer rose to fame from an impoverished childhood, achieving global success as the lead singer of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, with hits including “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” After launching a solo career, he became the first black male singer to record five consecutive multi-platinum albums in the U.S., but his career was struck by tragedy in 1982 when a car accident left him paralyzed at the age of 31. He later made a successful comeback before dying of respiratory failure in 2010.

“Everyone knows his voice, but all too many have forgotten the extraordinary story of the man behind it, his unique contribution to the history of popular music and his courageous triumph over adversity,” said Lichtenstein.

The film will feature interviews with Pendergrass’ family and friends, as well as industry legends, including Stevie Wonder, and rarely seen archival footage.

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