A top Hollywood movie director will aim his klieg lights on the Texas Panhandle town of Tulia, and the local police may not be lining up at the box-office.
The movie is based on a true story, as well as the 2005 book Tulia: Race, Cocaine, and Corruption in a Small Texas Town, according to The Hollywood Reporter, a movie industry trade publication.
It will be directed by Seth Gordon, whose work has ranged from the documentary King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters to this year’s re-boot of Baywatch.
The plot is set in the summer of 1999, in the tiny West Texas town of Tulia, where 39 people — almost all of them black — were arrested and charged with dealing powdered cocaine.
But the federally funded investigation was based on the work of one notoriously unreliable undercover officer: Tom Coleman. Despite the flimsiness of the evidence against them, virtually all the defendants were convicted and given sentences as high as 99 years. Coleman was named a Texas Lawman of the Year for his work.
The story, centering on the larger issues of racial injustice, poverty, desperation and the American war against drugs, will also follow Vanita Gupta and the NAACP team who fought a valiant battle against seemingly insurmountable odds to obtain acquittals in 2004 for the majority of the victims.
Vanita Gupta is well known in attorneys’ circles for her work in Tulia, and while there oversaw the Legal Defense and Education Fund of the NAACP.
“I’m excited to bring this important and poignant story to a wider audience, to call attention to what happened in Tulia, and to showcase the incredible and heroic work Vanita Gupta did for its citizens.”
Gupta was appointed by President Barack Obama as assistant attorney general of the civil rights division.
She is now the president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Trent Seibert can be reached at [email protected] or at 832-258-6119.