In the wake of unrest in Baltimore, a panel discussion at this week's Maryland Film Festival will feature four notable writers whose works touch on Baltimore, race or some combination thereof: "The Wire" creator David Simon; Pulitzer Prize winner and Baltimore writer Taylor Branch; National Book Award winner James McBride; and essayist and commentator Ta-Nehisi Coates, a National Magazine Award-winning editor at Atlantic magazine.
"A Work in Progress: Writing Race" is set for 6 p.m. Friday at the festival's Tent Village, on the east side parking lot of the Maryland Institute College of Art's Lazarus Center, 131 W. North Ave. Tickets are $10-$12.
All four men are working on the script for the upcoming HBO mini-series, "America in the King Years," which is being produced for HBO by Simon's Blown Deadline Productions. It is based on Branch's three-volume history of the Civil Rights movement.
After being approached by Festival Director Jed Dietz about an appearance at the film festival, Simon floated the idea of gathering this writers' panel.
The talk comes in the wake of unrest and violence in response to the April 19 death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died of injuries sustained while in police custody.
"If there was ever a time to contemplate the costs, risks and potentiality that come with non-violent protest -- as well as the costs and potentialities of the alternatives, this is it," Simon said in a release from the festival. "Baltimore has just passed through a hard, tense moment which tested the delicate balance between non-violent public dissent and civic unrest."
Dietz said he anticipated a quick sellout for the panel.
Simon "came up with this incredible idea," said Dietz, of discussing the "America in the King Years" project in its very early stages, before even a script has been completed. "I can't think of any festival that has had anything quite like this."
Simon has another mini-series set to air on HBO this summer. "Show Me a Hero," set in New York, chronicles the battle to build low-income housing within a predominantly white section of Yonkers more than 20 years ago.
The Maryland Film Festival runs Wednesday-Sunday at venues in and around the Station North Arts District. Information: 410-513-9587 or mdfilmfest.com.