CNN launches feature docs division with “Girl Rising”

Richard E. Robbins' Girl Rising is the first title to be acquired by CNN Films, the U.S. news network's new feature doc division, which has also inked development deals with doc directors Alex Gibney (pictured) and Andrew Rossi.
October 8, 2012

U.S. news network CNN is further branching out into the non-fiction realm by creating CNN Films, a new division that will create feature length docs to air both on TV and theatrically.

As part of the initiative, CNN Films has signed development deals with Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) and director Andrew Rossi (Page One: Inside the New York Times), both of whom will develop original docs to air on CNN.

The first doc acquired by CNN Film is Richard E. Robbins’ Girl Rising, which will air on CNN and CNN International – and screen theatrically – next spring.

The film, which inspired a global action campaign to promote girls’ education, tells the stories of several girls from around the globe fighting to overcome impossible odds to realize their dreams.

The film includes voice performances by actors including Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Kerry Washington, and Selena Gomez. The doc is executive produced by Tom Yellin and Holly Gordon of The Documentary Group and Paul G. Allen of Vulcan Productions.

“CNN Films will bring distinguished, thought-provoking documentary programming to our global audiences on all our television, online, and mobile platforms,” said CNN Worldwide managing editor Mark Whitaker. “We want these documentaries to tell compelling stories and stimulate important discussions across CNN’s other programs and websites.”

CNN added that CNN Films’ original feature-length documentaries will examine an array of political, social, and economic subject matters.

The films will premiere in primetime and will re-air in order to increase exposure.  Surrounding the premiere of each documentary, CNN programs will run dedicated programming that sheds light on the topics and issues discussed in each film.

“In-depth interviews, expert commentary, roundtable discussions, debates, and behind-the-scenes footage will be featured across all of CNN’s broadcast and online platforms,” the network added.

Amy Entelis, senior VP of talent and content development for CNN Worldwide; and Vinnie Malhotra, senior VP of development and acquisitions for CNN Worldwide, will oversee the acquisition strategy of documentaries under the CNN Films banner.

Malhotra will manage the day-to-day operation of CNN Films, and work directly with filmmakers to develop original projects.

The news comes after CNN earlier this year signed filmmaker Morgan Spurlock and Travel Channel star Anthony Bourdain to help boost its push into lifestyle programming.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.