On the Slate: Darlow Smithson & Marathon

From the miraculous rescue of the passengers on US Airways flight 1549 to animals who could save humans from natural disasters... the latest projects from the UK's Darlow Smithson and France's Marathon.
February 19, 2009

Unless you’ve been living under a rock – or perhaps filming in the jungle – there’s very little chance you haven’t heard about the crash landing and incredible rescue of US Airways flight 1549 on New York’s Hudson River on January 15. The American news story hit media worldwide and, specifically, hit the radar of the UK’s Channel 4 and prodco Darlow Smithson. Nearly immediately after the crash landing happened, C4′s Simon Dickson commissioned a fast turnaround doc on the event from the production company, entitled Miracle on the Hudson. The 60-minute doc airs tonight and was executive produced by Darlow Smithson’s creative director Tom Brisley. ‘It’s really interesting speaking to people who have stared death in the face and come out the other side because it has a profound effect on their way of thinking,’ Brisley told realscreen. ‘It was absolutely fascinating to hear the effect the crash had on their lives. People [are] making huge life decisions based on the incident.’

The doc interviews eight of the passengers on the flight as well as the police scuba divers and rescuers who were running the ferry boats that saved the 155 people on board. ‘They raced to the scene in boats that are designed as ferry boats, not rescue boats, so they had to use their best creativity to find ways to rescue the passengers,’ says Brisley. IMG will distribute the doc internationally.

In addition to this highly publicized doc, Darlow Smithson are at work on a Second World War series with Canada’s Cream Productions for History Canada, Channel 4, Nat Geo International, Smithsonian US and the Canadian Navy. Phew.

Entitled Convoy, the four x 60-minute series will use archive footage, reconstructions and interviews with those who fought in the battle to tell the story of the largest naval campaign of the 20th century.

While animals can’t protect humans from war or plane crashes (not that we know of, anyway) researchers see potential for some animals to save us from natural disasters. Marathon is delivering a five x 52-minute series in association with prodco Mona Lisa for ARTE, which follows international researchers attempting to tap into the instincts of various animals, from elephants to earthworms, to see how their warning mechanisms work. Sentinel Animals, filmed in HD, looks at how the behaviors of a cloned dog and some catfish help to predict seismic tremors in Japan; how deep-sea fish, elephants and birds started acting strange before 2004′s tsunami hit the Indian Ocean and how the genetic mutations of earthworms, spiders and rats that come in contact with contaminated soil might spell hope for the future of mankind.

Marathon is also bringing out two new docs; one about NGOs that are taking the law into their own hands (if NGOs had hands) and the other on the last days of Margaret Thatcher’s reign in Britain.

Reportedly, police in Cambodia can be easily bribed out of capturing child predators, but there are groups that are not so easily swayed. One such group is Action for Children, which hired 55 undercover Cambodian investigators that have efficiently figured out ways to force the hand of Cambodian justice to take up the cause of protecting children from child prostitution and from being sold by their parents. Hunting Down Pedophiles follows the investigations of Action for Children and the battle between NGOs and corrupt officials.

Who Killed Maggie? looks at the final three days of Margaret Thatcher’s time in office, from November 20 to 22, 1990. Director William Karel tells the story of these days, in which her own ministers, secretaries of state, advisors and campaign managers turned their backs on the Iron Lady, through interviews with people who were there. Who Killed Maggie? will come in a 90 minute format for France 2 as well as a 52 minute version for other regions. Marathon will be bringing all of these docs to MIPTV.

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