REDFORD (WWJ) – A local high school student has been thrown into the spotlight after a film for a history class project turns into a bigger production than he first thought.

Luke Jaden, a senior at Detroit Country Day, had no idea his school project would take on a life of its own. On Thursday night, Jaden’s 40-minute long documentary “Madman or Martyr” will be showing at the Redford Theatre after a successful opening at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit.

Jaden told WWJ’s Chrystal Knight he was doing some research for the project on local abolitionist John Brown and the underground railroad between the years of 1837 and 1859, when he came upon something that really impacted him.

“I thought John Brown was African American and I think it really had my connection because I found out that John Brown was a white person, and he stuck up for this movement — which is, you don’t hear too many things about that,” he said.

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. 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.’”

The film will premier at the Redford Theatre at 8 p.m. Thursday, following a meet and greet session at 7 p.m. with Jaden, Kelly and Winans. Tickets are $4 a piece. For more information, visit


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