HBO Documentary Films has acquired worldwide television and streaming rights for Master of Lightthe award-winning SXSW film about artist George Anthony Morton, who honed his exceptional talent while serving a prison sentence.
Dutch filmmaker Rosa Ruth Boesten directed the documentary, produced by Oscar-winning actor Roger Ross Williams, Ilia Roomans and Anousha Nzume.
“I heard about George through a mutual friend who met George in New York and told me his story,” Boesten told Deadline at SXSW, where his film premiered, winning the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary. “He just published a New York Times article and I read the story and was blown away by his works. And that’s where I reached out, and that’s where it started for me.
Morton “is a classical painter who spent ten years in federal prison for drug trafficking. While incarcerated, he developed his unique artistry and artistic abilities,” HBO Documentary Films noted. “Since his release, he has done everything he can to challenge society’s unequal playing field and take on the white-dominated art world. Now he’s on a trip back to his hometown of Kansas City, where he’s trying to heal the broken relationship with his mother and paint the family members in the style of the Dutch Old Masters.
The HBO Documentary Films outlet adds, “Returning home forces George to confront his past in his quest to rewrite the script of his life and discover the contribution of African influences to the realist tradition.”
In a statement, Boesten commented, “As a first-time director, I am overwhelmed with the excitement of working with such an acclaimed company as HBO Documentary Films. We hope George’s story of perseverance and skill as a classical painter will resonate with all audiences.
In addition to the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW, master of light won Best Documentary Feature at the San Francisco International Film Festival and Best First Feature at Sheffield DocFest in the UK
“From the moment I saw a teaser of the film,” Williams said in a statement, “I knew Rosa’s talent and George’s story needed to be showcased to a wide audience. Seeing it come to fruition with HBO is a very proud moment for the whole team.
Master of Light is a One Story Up and Docmakers & Vulcan Productions production. Rosa Ruth Boesten conducts; the film is produced by Roger Ross Williams, Ilia Roomans and Anousha Nzume, and produced by Jody Allen, Ruth Johnston, Rocky Collins, Jannat Gargi and Geoff Martz.
HBO Documentary Films did not reveal an expected release date for the film.
“It’s been pretty overwhelming,” Morton told Deadline of seeing his story turned into a documentary. “Because the film is so immersive in my own healing journey and my own practice… It was a great struggle, I would say, a very great struggle, but I’m honored to have this opportunity. It’s really humiliating. Being able to find light in the dark is probably the best kind of light.