Film about the lynching of Leo Frank to premiere in Cobb

"The People v. Leo Frank," a TV documentary about one of the darkest chapters in Georgia history, will premiere April 30 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre — in the county where he was lynched in 1915.

"We absolutely wanted it to be at Cobb Energy Centre," says Bill Nigut, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, which is sponsoring the premiere. "That venue is just a few miles from where Frank was hanged. We hope the evening will serve as a memorial of the tragedy, while that ultramodern arts center will speak to how far Cobb County has come."

To underscore the meaning, two Cobb Countians have been enlisted as co-chairmen: former Gov. Roy Barnes, whose wife has ancestral connections to the lynching conspiracy, and Cobb's first Jewish commission chairman, Sam Olens.

The $100-a-ticket premiere will benefit the ADL, which used the Frank case early in its history to rally against anti-Semitism.

Frank, a Jewish transplant from New York, was accused of the 1913 murder of Mary Phagan, a teen who worked in the pencil factory he managed in downtown Atlanta. A Fulton County jury convicted him, but many thought him innocent. When Gov. John Slaton commuted his death sentence to life, vigilantes kidnapped Frank from prison and lynched him in Marietta, Phagan's hometown.

Boston filmmaker Ben Loeterman shot live-action scenes last summer in Atlanta, Griffin, Monroe and Marietta. It will air on PBS late this year.

The film was underwritten, in part, by $500,000 in donations from Georgians — mostly members of Atlanta's Jewish community, but also Cobb leaders such as Barnes and Marietta Daily Journal publisher Otis Brumby.

"This film wasn't going to happen unless Atlanta wanted it to," Loeterman says.

Premiere tickets are available from the ADL: 404-262-3470 or www.adl.org/leofrank

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