Nat Geo prepping Junger doc about Syria, Iraq wars

The next documentary by director Sebastian Junger (pictured), a series about sex from World of Wonder and an event series from Darren Aronofsky and Nutopia were among National Geographic Channel's programming announcements at the TCAs.
January 6, 2016

Restrepo filmmaker Sebastian Junger (pictured) is directing a documentary about the wars in Syria and Iraq for National Geographic Channel.

The project was among the U.S. cable network’s unscripted programming announcements during the Television Critics Association’s Winter Press Tour on Wednesday (January 6).

In the yet-to-be-titled doc, Junger and his producing partner Nick Quested will “immerse viewers into the complexities of the war in Syria and Iraq, as they gain unprecedented access to clandestine organizations to offer a hard-hitting look at one of the most serious threats faced by the Western world,” the network said in a press release.

The doc is still in production and does not yet have an air date.

National Geographic Channel previously teamed up with the journalist, filmmaker and author for the 2010 Afghanistan war documentary Restrepo, which Junger co-directed with late photojournalist Tim Hetherington. The film was nominated for an Oscar and won the Grand Jury Prize at the  Sundance Film Festival.

“We are thrilled to be involved in Sebastian’s latest project,” said Tim Pastore, Nat Geo’s president of original programming and production, in a statement. “After the unprecedented success of Restrepo for the National Geographic Channel, my only regret is that it took us six years to work together again.”

Goldcrest Films is producing the doc in association with the network. Junger and Quested are the executive producers.

In other unscripted programming news, NGC has greenlit the six-part Original Sin: How Sex Changed The World (working title) from World of Wonder.

The series, which is in pre-production, explores how the sexual revolution has influenced pop culture, advertising, education, the media, the Internet, science and politics in the U.S. and globally over the past half-century.

Using a mix of archival footage, interviews and animation, the series will cover topics such as privacy, sex education, sex scandals and how concepts of gender and sexuality have been redefined by celebrities such as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox. Sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer is also slated to appear in the show.

Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, Tom Campbell and Dan Partland will serve as executive producers.

The network’s other major unscripted announcement during the presentation was the event series One Strange Rock from filmmaker Darren Aronofsky and Nutopia’s Jane Root.

The series will film for 100 weeks around the world and in outer space using micro and macro photography to explore the Earth’s history and demonstrate how its biological, chemical and physical systems are able to sustain life.

One Strange Rock explores how intricate, interwoven and fragile life as we know it is on Earth and how rare it may be in the universe,” said Aronofsky in a statement. “The more we appreciate how awe-inspiring the development of life on this planet has been, the more likely we are to become inspired stewards of the home that sustains it.”

“We’re going to combine dramatic visual storytelling and real science to tell the story of our planet Earth and focus on the unbelievable ‘coincidences,’ and the complex, unlikely connections that all had to happen to create complex life,” added Root.

Nutopia and Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures are coproducing. For Nutopia, executive producers are Peter Lovering and Root. Aronofsky, Ari Handel and Scott Franklin are exec producers for Protozoa. Matt Renner is the EP for the network and Arif Nurmohamed is the show runner.

The network has also renewed the Neil deGrasse Tyson talk show Star Talk for a third season. The series’ fall premiere will coincide with the release of a StarTalk book, to be published by National Geographic Books.

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.