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Local Teen Director Premiers John Brown Film ‘Madman Or Martyr’ In Detroit

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Luke Jaden (Credit: Vickie Thomas/WWJ Newsradio 950)

Luke Jaden (Credit: Vickie Thomas/WWJ Newsradio 950)

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DETROIT (WWJ) – A 17-year-old student from Country Day High School could be the next Steven Spielberg.

Luke Jaden is a local teen actor turned director, producer and writer, who’s first documentary “Madman or Martyr” is premiering at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit on Friday.

In the nearly 40-minute long documentary, Jaden explores the history of abolition in Detroit during the 1830’s, 40’s, and 50’s. He also bring abolitionist John Brown back to life.

“It started all from a school history project,” Jaden told WWJ’s Vickie Thomas. “I soon began to do this research and I found out about John Brown and the underground railroad, which was the hub here in Detroit, and other abolitionists like George DeBaptist and Frederick Douglas, and I just connected all of those people.”

Countless hours of fashioning the research material, lining up the extensive interview sessions with experts, and working with the city of Detroit, which provided significant assistance.

Jaden said he also assembled an “unbelievable” cast and crew.

“Ed Kelly, who plays John Brown and the narrator, and I also casted Phillip Edward Van Lear out of Chicago, who’s on the TV show ‘Prison Break’ and then Tim Holmes, who’s known for being the strongman in ‘Oz: The Great and Powerful,'” he said. “And there’s just brilliant music, it couldn’t have got any better. David Winans II put together two remakes of ‘Wade in the Water.'”

Jaden said his film, which was filmed entirely in Detroit in March 2013, searches for the true meaning of Brown’s life, his almost maniacal religious fervor and his fight to end the brutality of slavery.

Friday’s event begins at 5:30 p.m., with a Q&A session to follow the movie’s premier. The event is open to all and is free of charge.

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is located at 315 East Warren Avenue in Detroit.

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