Ordower develops “Jubilee” gospel music doc series; trailer screens at CCC

Steve Ordower has a big idea to pay tribute to the legacy of his father, TV pioneer and civil rights activist Sid Ordower. He is developing a seven-part, high-end gospel music documentary series, in the spirit of Martin Scorcese’s “The Blues” series and the feature doc “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” with the goal of PBS or cable release.

Ordower manages the 100-episode collection of the renowned gospel music TV series “Jubilee Showcase,” which his father Sid Ordower produced for its entire run from 1963 to 1984. The gospel doc series is a co-production of Ordower’s Rhythm and Light production company and Media Process Group. Ordower and MPG’s Bob Hercules are co-executive producers.

A seven-minute trailer for the series’ first episode, tracing the history of “Jubilee Showcase” and Sid Ordower’s work on the show and in the civil rights movement, plays May 4 at Chicago Community Cinema.

Ordower has so far shot 30 hours of interviews, which he is combining with his deep reservoir of archival footage. “Interviewing musicians and activists, I’m getting to know in an intimate way how much my father influenced society, both through his show and through his activism,” Steve Ordower said.

“And I’m getting to know him better as a man. He was the most universal person I ever met, able to cross racial, ethnic and social boundaries with no hesitation, just being himself,” he said.

“Jubilee Showcase” is credited as one of the greatest platforms for gospel, featuring the TV debuts of many of the music’s leading figures. Sid Ordower was active in progressive causes, particularly in the African American community, and worked on the campaigns of Mayor Harold Washington, U.S. Sen. Carole Mosely Braun, and U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis.

Ordower is seeking $1 million per episode to shoot on HD. He expects a three-to-five year production period, and aims for an eventual run on PBS or cable. He’s incorporating the nonprofit Rhythm and Light Foundation to solicit foundation funding.

Ordower plans to focus on the relationship between gospel and blues and civil rights. “It’s not just Chicago history ? this is an important part of American history,” he said.

For the past six months, Ordower has also been in talks with a distributor to package the original “Jubilee Showcase” shows for DVD release and possible rebroadcast. He’s seeking a high-profile host for the re-release and the doc series.

Ordower founded Rhythm and Light eight years ago. He has worked on projects for The Learning Channel, The Discovery Channel, A&E, Broadview Media, the University of Illinois and the Chicago Public Schools. He edited Jackie Rivet River’s award-winning hour-long doc “Too Flawed to Fix: The Illinois Death Penalty Experience,” and the award-winning short “Wrestled,” that director Phil Donlon is developing into the feature “Streets of Heaven” with Ordower slated to edit.

Chicago Community Cinema is at Excalibur, 632 N. Dearborn. Doors open at 6 p.m., screenings at 7:30 p.m. $8. See www.chicagocommunitycinema.com.

Rhythm and Light is at 1452 N. Artesian. Call 773/ 342-9939 or see www.rhythmandlight.com.

? by Ed M. Koziarski, edk@homesickblues.com.