HBO reveals Atlanta Child Murders, Ralph Lauren projects as part of upcoming slate

Premium cable network HBO has unveiled its slate of documentaries for the second half of 2019, with films from Anthony Wonke, Roger Ross Williams, Susan Lacy and executive producer Mark ...
July 25, 2019

Premium cable network HBO has unveiled its slate of documentaries for the second half of 2019, with films from Anthony Wonke, Roger Ross Williams, Susan Lacy and executive producer Mark Wahlberg on the way.

Anchoring the HBO documentary lineup, announced Wednesday (July 24) during the network’s 2019 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour, is an investigative docuseries from HBO Documentary Films, Show of Force, Jay Z’s Roc Nation and John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co.

The as-yet untitled series (pictured), currently in production, will re-examine the Atlanta Child Murders of the late 1970s and early ’80s. The project will provide unparalleled access into the case that saw at least 30 African-American children murdered over a 23-month period and culminated in the state’s rush to officially shut down the case by persecuting and indicting 23-year-old Atlanta native Wayne Williams.

The docuseries will bring new evidence to light and investigates the racial tensions and cultural clashes that brought Atlanta to a boiling point. The series will additionally examine the original trial materials and court documents, raising new questions for further investigation.

The series is produced and directed by Show of Force’s Joshua Bennett, Maro Chermayeff and Jeff Dupre and Sam Pollard. Roc Nation’s Patrick Reardon is executive producer alongside Get Lifted’s Mike Jackson, Ty Stiklorius and John Legend.

Elsewhere, Emmy- and BAFTA-winning director Anthony Wonke’s Unmasking Jihadi John: Anatomy of a Terrorist will launch HBO’s documentary programming slate when it debuts on July 31. The film explores the path that propelled British citizen Mohammed Emwazi to become a masked ISIS terrorist in Syria known as “Jihadi John.” The doc is produced by Nutopia, from executive producers Jane Root, Lynne Kirby, Mike LernerPeter Lovering.

Bolstering HBO’s lineup in the fall are documentaries from such acclaimed directors and executive producers as Roger Ross Williams; Susan Lacy; Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato and Diane von Furstenberg; and Mark Wahlberg.

The previously announced Liberty: Mother of Exiles from Emmy winners Bailey, Barbato and executive producer von Furstenberg will provide an in-depth look at one of the most beloved icons in the world: the Statue of Liberty. Jason Blum and Sheila Nevins also executive produce the film, which premieres Oct. 24.

Academy- and Emmy Award-winning director Ellen Goosenberg Kent‘s Torn Apart: Separated at the Border, meanwhile, will also enjoy its television debut in October. Produced by Talos Films, the project will illuminate the ongoing crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border by following two mothers who have been separated from their children after fleeing danger in their homelands to seek safe refuge in America. The executive producers for Talos Films are Elli Hakami and Julian P. Hobbs. Xochiti Dorsey produces.

On Nov. 6, HBO will present Roger Ross Williams’ The Apollo, which serves as an insider’s look at the history and legacy of the legendary Apollo Theater in New York City. The film, which opened the 18th annual Tribeca Film Festival, weaves together archival footage, music, comedic and dance performances, as well as behind-the-scenes vérité with the team that runs the theater where musical giants were discovered. Produced by Lisa Cortes, Jeanne Elfant Festa and Cassidy Hartmann. Executive produced by Nigel Sinclair, Dan Cogan, Nicholas Ferrall and Julie Goldman.

Six days later on Nov. 12, HBO will air Emmy winner Susan Lacy’s Very Ralph, which examines the life and career of fashion icon Ralph Lauren. The film, from Pentimento Productions, features extensive and candid conversations with Lauren himself, as well as family, colleagues, journalists and other notables. Lacy serves as director and producer, with Emma Pildes and Jessica Levin also producing. Graydon Carter is executive producer.

McMillions, a docuseries from executive producer Mark Wahlberg and his non-scripted prodco Unrealistic Ideas, will chronicle the story of Jerome Jacobson, a former cop-turned-security auditor, who swindled the McDonald’s Monopoly game promotion over the course of a decade by defrauding the multi-national fast-food company out of millions through a vast network of co-conspirators across the U.S. McMillions is directed by James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte.

The full list of documentaries and non-scripted projects set to premiere on HBO this autumn follows below, with descriptions provided by the cable network:

Unmasking Jihadi John: Anatomy of a Terrorist
Anthony Wonke
Debuts July 31

The revealing documentary examines what propelled Mohammed Emwazi’s journey down a violent path, the points at which intelligence agencies were aware of his growing radicalization and attempted, unsuccessfully, to deter him, Emwazi’s use of social media as an ISIS recruitment tool and launchpad to notoriety, harrowing first-hand accounts from his surviving hostages, and the collaboration between the world’s leading intelligence agencies to track him down and bring him to justice.

Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America
Matthew O’Neill and Perri Peltz
Debuts Aug. 14

In 2018, for the first time, more Americans chose cremation than traditional funerals and burials. This film explores the changing attitudes, rituals and mechanics of death, including the ways it is recognized, and how the end of life is approached. Subjects include the choice to use medical assistance, unique celebrations of life and ways to honor loved ones as they die.

In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High On 9/11
Amy Schatz
Sept. 11

When the Twin Towers were attacked on September 11, 2001, students had just started their day at Stuyvesant High School, blocks away. Drawing on intimate access to eight student eyewitnesses, the documentary offers a unique perspective on this tragic day by weaving footage of the attack with compelling interviews with the students, who, as young teenagers, found themselves fleeing debris in the heart of the danger zone and faced with a harrowing journey home.

Andrew Shea
Sept. 25

This revealing and personal documentary follows Pulitzer prize-winning reporter and author, Buzz Bissinger, as he experiences a sexual awakening while collaborating with Caitlyn Jenner on her tell-all memoir.

Matthew O’Neill and Perri Peltz

The headline-generating documentary news series will continue with four more episodes this fall and continues to work with leading Axios journalists to highlight the week ahead in politics, business, and technology, and other big topics shaping the future.

Letter to the Editor
Alan Berliner

Composed entirely of newspaper photographs, this documentary is acclaimed filmmaker and Emmy® winner Alan Berliner’s personal journey through 40 years of pictorial history culled from daily printed editions of the New York Times.

Liberty: Mother of Exiles
Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato
Oct. 24

This film explores the surprising past and the culturally relevant present of the iconic Statue of Liberty. The documentary follows Diane von Furstenberg, the legendary fashion designer and “godmother” of the statue, in her quest to discover the little-known story of how French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi’s dream became a reality, the challenges the statue has faced over the decades, and what Lady Liberty means to people around the world as a symbol of freedom and a beacon of hope to immigrants.

Torn Apart: Separated at the Border
Ellen Goosenberg Kent

This documentary follows the story of two mothers who were each separated from their children in the United States for months after fleeing from danger in their homelands to seek asylum. Both mothers work with pro-bono lawyers and volunteers to reunite with their kids who have been placed thousands of miles away from them with little access to communication.

The Bronx, USA
Danny Gold

From the filmmaking team behind “If You’re Not In the Obit, Eat Breakfast”, this documentary features members of producer George Shapiro’s graduating class of 1949 from DeWitt Clinton High School, as well as students from 2017′s graduating class.

The Apollo
Roger Ross Williams
Nov. 6

This film chronicles the unique history and contemporary legacy of New York City’s landmark Apollo Theater. Over the last 85 years, what began as a refuge for marginalized artists has emerged as a hallowed hall of black excellence and empowerment. The film weaves together archival clips of music, comedy and dance performances; behind-the-scenes verité footage of the team that makes the theater run; and interviews with such artists as Common, Jamie Foxx, Savion Glover, Patti LaBelle, Smokey Robinson and Pharrell Williams.

Very Ralph
Susan Lacy
Nov. 12

With an uncanny ability to turn his dreams into reality, Ralph Lauren has cultivated the iconography of the American dream as a global lifestyle brand.  Through extensive and candid conversations, Lauren reflects on his pioneering vision, his five-decades-long marriage and how a boy from the Bronx who knew nothing about designing fashion built a multi-billion-dollar global empire.

Ernie & Joe 
Jenifer McShane

Texas police officers Ernie Stevens and Joe Smarro, part of the San Antonio Police Department’s ten-person mental health unit, are putting compassionate policing practices into action. This documentary chronicles their dramatic daily encounters with people in crisis, showing how their innovative approach to policing – which takes mental health into account – can diffuse dangerous situations and divert people from jail into mental health treatment.

Art of Political Murder
Paul Taylor

Based on Francisco Goldman’s book of the same name and executive produced by Oscar-winner George Clooney and Grant Heslov, this film 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.

James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte

This documentary series chronicles the stranger-than-fiction story of an ex-cop turned security auditor who rigged the McDonald’s Monopoly game promotion for a decade, stealing millions of dollars and building a vast network of co-conspirators across the U.S.

Saudi Women’s Driving School 
Erica Gornall

In June 2018, women in Saudi Arabia were allowed to drive legally for the first time. Set at The Saudi Driving School in the capital city of Riyadh, which caters exclusively to women, this documentary follows Saudi women as they embrace a new way of life and the freedom that comes from being behind the wheel.

Moonlight Sonata
Irene Taylor Brodsky

Eleven-year-old Jonas, who has a cochlear implant, is struggling to learn the first movement of Beethoven’s anguished “Moonlight Sonata,” which the composer wrote as he began to go deaf. Jonas’ grandparents, Paul and Sally, have been deaf for nearly 80 years, but unlike Jonas, the majority of their lives were shaped by silence. As Jonas dives deeper into Beethoven’s music, his grandparents begin to feel the gulf that lies between them. The story becomes an intergenerational tale of deafness and a deeply personal portrait of three lives, and the discoveries that lie beyond loss.

Finding the Way Home
Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill

J.K. Rowling’s LUMOS foundation highlights the distressing circumstances for the eight million children living in orphanages and other institutions around the world and focuses on reuniting them with extended family members or placing them into loving foster families. Finding the Way Home interweaves insights from families who have been torn apart, the social workers who have helped reunite them and the dedicated foster parents who have taken in children with stigmatizing disabilities, to illustrate what it truly means to be home.

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