National Geographic Channel has ordered two specials around events that have shaped modern history, including the 2013 election of Pope Francis and the Space Shuttle Challenger’s ill-fated 1986 flight.
Produced by Fox Telecolombia, part of Fox International Channels, the hour-long special Rebel Pope will track the life of Jorge Mario Bergoglio – otherwise known as Pope Francis – from childhood to his rise through the church’s hierarchy. The docu-drama will interweave scripted accounts of his pre-Vatican life with exclusive interviews with those closest to him during this time.
Directed by Patrick Reams, filming on the biopic is to take place in Argentina and Colombia.
Meanwhile, Challenger Disaster: Lost Tapes is to focus on the January 28, 1986 disaster at Cape Canaveral, Florida, when the NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger exploded moments after lift-off in front of a live television audience.
The hour-long 1895 Films-made documentary is to spotlight the events leading up to the disastrous NASA mission through national and local news reports, as well as internal archival material, including footage from within Houston’s Mission Control in the hours following the tragedy. The mission was to see the first civilian – 36-year-old schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe – sent into space.
Tom Jennings is exec producing the documentary for 1895 Films.
Both films are overseen by Hamish Mykura, exec VP and head of international content for National Geographic Channels International. They are to be broadcast globally on National Geographic Channel across 171 countries in early 2016.
“As we approach the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, the opportunity to go behind the scenes in a way never seen before and put the event into the context of its time, is a rare privilege,” said Mykura in a statement. “With leaps and bounds being made in space exploration, it is vital that we fully understand the trajectory that led us to this point and acknowledge those who sacrificed their lives in our quest to better understand the solar system.”