Argonon production company, Like A Shot Entertainment, is producing one off documentary, Black Panthers of WW2, for UKTV’s specialist factual channel Yesterday.

Premiering during Black History Month, the 60’ minute special is narrated by David Harewood.  BossaNova Media has secured the international rights and will distribute the film.

The documentary follows the story of the history-making 761st tank battalion composed of African- American servicemen, the first US armoured unit of its kind to enter combat.  “Their motto was ‘Come Out Fighting’ but these US soldiers were not only forced to confront the enemy abroad but also battle racism at home. As they battled valiantly for their country, the very democracy they were defending saw them as second-class citizens as they fought against racial segregation, in a world where Nazi prisoners of war enjoyed better rights.”

The film traces their story back to their formation in a prevailing climate of segregation, and the reluctance of US high command to commit the battalion to battle.  It charts their entry into combat where they served for an incredible 183 consecutive days, and their involvement in the Battle of the Bulge, as part of the Allied forces who liberated Gunskirchen. And it follows their return to America, where instead of being greeted as returning heroes, they were confronted by angry white mobs.

The programme also sheds light on the little-known Battle of Bamber Bridge in Lincolnshire, illustrating racist attitudes in the US military at the time. The segregation in the US army was not well received in the UK, and black US servicemen were welcomed by the townsfolk with whom they drank in the local pub.  Violence erupted in 1943 when white US military police tried to arrest a black American GI, leading to a gun battle that raged through the night, resulting in one man being killed and a number injured.

Through reconstruction and interviews with historians, descendants and one of the last surviving Blank Panthers – Corporal Robert Andry – the programme reveals the untold story of the black servicemen who changed history.

Steve Gilham is executive producer for Like A Shot Entertainment and the director is Farrah Jaufuraully. The pre-investment deal was brokered by Daniel Thomas, Global Acquisitions Manager for UKTV and BBC Studios. Newly launched BossaNova is managing international sales.

Steve Gillham, executive producer for Like A Shot commented: “The story of the Black Panthers is one of racial injustice, extreme prejudice and striking bravery, with important lessons for modern society today.  Like their heroic deeds on the field of battle, their treatment at the hands of their own compatriots should never be forgotten. We’re delighted to partner with UKTV and BossaNova to take this documentary to a UK and international audience.”

UKTV’s Daniel Thomas said: “I’m thrilled to bring this special one-off documentary to Yesterday to recognise the incredible contribution that the 761st tank battalion made to WW2.”

Paul Heaney, CEO at BossaNova added: “It’s great to be working with Like A Shot again and on such a prestigious special. It’s such a unique story in a familiar sub-genre so we’re all hopeful it will carry a lot of appeal with the international community.”

Jon Creamer

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