HBO announces new slate of documentary films & series
HBO Documentary Films has unveiled a full slate of new films and series both in development and scheduled to release on the premium cabler later this year, including a two-part docuseries exploring the history of Black television executive produced by Issa Rae (Insecure) and a series centered on a 1970s auto scam with the Duplass Brothers attached as EPs.
Seen & Heard will offer cultural commentary about representation in black storytelling and feature interviews with actors, showrunners, writers, celebrities and other notable influencers as well as verité-driven segments and inventive use of archival material. The featured participants will reflect on their own experiences watching African Americans represented on television yesterday and today, while sharing insights into their current creative endeavors, personal experiences, and inspiration, providing a window into the larger evolution of Black storytellers across television history.
“Black people have such a rich, but often unacknowledged history in Hollywood,” Issa Rae said in a statement. “We have defined American culture and influenced generations time and time again across the globe. I’m honored to pair with Ark Media to center and celebrate the achievements of those who paved a way for so many of us to tell our stories on television.”
The two part documentary is produced and directed by award-winning documentarian Phil Bertelsen (Who Killed Malcolm X?) and executive produced by Rae and Montrel McKay of Issa Rae Productions, the Peabody and Emmy-nominated team at 3 Arts Entertainment, including Jonathan Berry and David Becky (Insecure and A Black Lady Sketch Show), and by the Peabody and Emmy-award winning team at Ark Media (Who Killed Malcolm X?), including Rachel Dretzin and Esther Dere.
The Lady and the Dale, the latest partnership between HBO and the Emmy winning Duplass Brothers (Room 104), is directed by Nick Cammilleri and Zackary Drucker and traces the story of Elizabeth Carmichael, who rose to prominence when she released a fuel-efficient three-wheeled vehicle during the 1970s gas crisis. As she wins over major carmakers and investors, a web of mystery unfolds regarding the car’s technology and Carmichael’s surprising past. A portrait of an extraordinary entrepreneur’s rise and eventual fall, the series explores a one-of-a-kind story of fraud, family and identity. The series is expected to air in 2021.
“We are excited to be collaborating yet again with HBO in the docu-series space, and for the chance to bring the complex story of Liz Carmichael and her three-wheeled car to life,” Mark and Jay Duplass said in a statement.
Mark and Jay Duplass will executive produce, along with Mel Eslyn, through their production company Duplass Brothers Productions (Wild Wild Country). Andre Gaines, Allen Bain, Cammilleri, Alana Carithers and Drucker will also serve as executive producers. Additional collaborations with HBO and the Duplass brothers include Room 104, Animals., On Tour with Asperger’s Are Us and Togetherness.
The slate of documentaries currently scheduled for upcoming releases includes:
The Vow, debuting August 23, is an HBO documentary series from Academy Award-nominated, Emmy®-winning directors Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer that follows a range of people who joined the self-improvement group, NXIVM. The organization has been under siege, with various charges including sex trafficking and racketeering conspiracy brought against its highest members – most notably founder Keith Raniere, who was convicted in June 2019 and is currently awaiting sentencing. The series takes a deep, nuanced look at the experiences of several people deeply involved in NXIVM over the course of several years. Amidst claims by NXIVM participants of both profound transformation and devastating abuse, the series, like Noujaim and Amer’s previous films, seeks to reveal the issues behind the headlines and explore the emotional toll of the unfolding events on these individuals.
Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn, debuting August 12, directed by Muta’Ali, tells the story of Yusuf Hawkins, a black teenager who was murdered in 1989 by a group of young white men in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Yusuf Hawkins’ death and the official response to it sparked outrage in New York, unleashing a torrent of racial tension and spurring tireless civil rights activism that exposed deep racial prejudices and inequities which continue to plague the country today.
Siempre, Luis, from first-time filmmaker John James, is an inspiring portrait of Luis A. Miranda Jr., a Puerto Rican migrant who helped shape New York politics for over three decades. When Luis A. Miranda Jr. left Puerto Rico for New York City in the 1970s, he had big dreams, but little did he know how far he’d go. Over the course of a year, Luis Miranda’s devotion to family and country propelled him forward. Following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, he helps plan relief efforts and manages the logistics behind bringing his son Lin-Manuel Miranda’s award-winning production of Hamilton to the island. With humor and heart, Siempre, Luis tells the story of a proud American.
Starting in November, HBO will feature a weekly anthology of crime-focused documentary films including:
Crazy, Not Insane, directed and produced by Academy Award winner Alex Gibney (HBO’s The Inventor: Out For Blood In Silicon Valley), profiles forensic psychiatrist Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, who has spent her life investigating the interior lives of violent people, working with numerous serial killers including Ted Bundy. Her controversial work with “multiples,” patients with Dissociative Identity Disorder, led her to develop a theory of what makes a killer and made her a polarizing expert witness. Her research videotapes, seen here for the first time, show eerie transformations in violent individuals as they move between the alter egos of their various personalities.
Baby God, directed by Hannah Olson and executive produced by Academy Award nominees Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, is a shocking examination of the dark legacy of a Las Vegas fertility specialist, the late Dr. Quincy Fortier, who assisted hundreds of couples struggling with difficulty conceiving. Decades later, many children born from his interventions discover through DNA and genealogical websites, that Dr. Fortier had used his own sperm to impregnate their mothers without their knowledge or consent, provoking a troubling reckoning with the nature of genetic inheritance, the meaning of family and the dilemma of revealing painful secrets.
The Mystery of DB Cooper, directed by John Dower, brings to life the stories of four people believed by their family and friends to be “DB Cooper” a man who hijacked a 727 flying out of Seattle and jumped from the plane over the wilds of Washington State with a parachute and $200,000, never to be heard from again. The case continues to inspire wild speculation almost fifty years later, as it remains the only unsolved airplane hijacking in U.S. history.
Alabama Snake, directed by Theo Love and produced by Bryan Storkel, explores the story of October 4, 1991, when a violent crime was reported in the sleepy town of Scottsboro, Alabama. Glenn Summerford, a Pentecostal minister, was accused of attempting to murder his wife with a rattlesnake. The details of the investigation and the trial that followed has haunted Southern Appalachia for decades. The documentary features local historian and folklorist, Dr. Thomas Burton, who has spent his life studying the culture, beliefs, and folklore of Pentecostal snake handlers. Alabama Snake paints a Southern Gothic portrait of Glenn Summerford and his tale of demon possession.
The Art of Political Murder, directed by Paul Taylor, based on Francisco Goldman’s book of the same name, produced by Teddy Leifer and Regina K. Scully and executive produced by Academy Award winners George Clooney and Grant Heslov, tells the story of the 1998 murder of Guatemalan human rights activist Bishop Juan Gerardi, which stunned a country ravaged by decades of political violence. A team of young investigators take on the case and begin to unearth a web of conspiracy and corruption, entangling the highest levels of the government in their pursuit of the truth.
Additional upcoming fall HBO documentary titles include:
Axios continues with insightful and news making interviews with top leaders and decision makers from a range of sectors including politics, public health, and business. The bi-weekly series is directed and produced by Emmy winners Matthew O’Neill and Perri Peltz and the program features Axios’ signature “Smart Brevity” analysis, exclusive documentary-style reporting, and in-depth conversations on the topics and trends shaping America.
Transhood, filmed over the course of five years in Kansas City, is an inspiring chronicle of the lives of four young people and their families as they navigate growing up transgender in America’s heartland. The documentary offers a multi-year, inside perspective on four transgender youths (aged 4, 7, 12, and 15 at the start of filming) as they redefine “coming of age” and share personal realities of how gender expression is reshaping their American families. Directed by Sharon Liese, produced by Sasha Alpert, executive produced by Kimberly Reed.
The Soul of America, a documentary film based on Jon Meacham’s 2018 bestseller, illuminates our present-day, fraught political reality by exploring historical challenges of the past such as the women’s suffrage movement, the incarceration of Japanese Americans, McCarthyism, and the struggle to pass Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s. All were instances in which “our better angels” battled against the forces of hatred and division that are recurring themes in American life. Directed by Katie Davison, produced by George Kunhardt and Teddy Kunhardt, executive produced by Peter Kunhardt.