TCA: HBO orders Ronan Farrow doc, reveals doc slate for first half of 2020

American journalist Ronan Farrow is partnering with Loki Films on the first project in his multi-film deal with WarnerMedia-owned premium cable and satellite network HBO. The project was announced today ...
January 15, 2020

American journalist Ronan Farrow is partnering with Loki Films on the first project in his multi-film deal with WarnerMedia-owned premium cable and satellite network HBO. The project was announced today (Jan. 15) at HBO’s Television Critics Association winter press tour showcase in Pasadena, along with the unveiling of the cabler’s doc slate for the first half of 2020.

Working with directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady of Loki Films, Farrow (pictured) is to investigate threats, intimidation and violence directed at journalists working to expose corruption and abuse by governments, corporations and other powerful interests.

The as-yet untitled film will tackle subjects in the U.S. and globally.

Farrow serves as executive producer through his production company Glass Cannon Inc., in association with Loki Films. Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller will executive produce for HBO.

“Now more than ever, as evidenced by Ronan’s recent reporting, unbiased investigative journalism is both essential and under siege,” said Casey Bloys, president of HBO programming, in a statement. “We’re excited to provide a platform for Ronan, Heidi and Rachel to shed light on the harrowing circumstances thrust upon journalists in their tireless pursuit of the truth.”

Meanwhile, HBO has confirmed the slate of documentaries that will form the first half of its 2020 lineup.

The cable net is set to tackle topics such as a McDonalds Monopoly scheme, “fake news” in the U.S. and autism, to name a few.

First up, the six-part docuseries McMillion$, premiering Feb. 3, tells the story of how US$24 million was stolen from the McDonald’s Monopoly games in the 1990s after the winning tickets were sold through a web of family and friends. The series is directed by James Lee Hernandez and Brian Lazarte, and executive produced by Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson and Archie Gips.

Also forming HBO’s lineup, the one-off documentary Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes offers a look at the life and career of boxing legend Muhammad Ali through the lens of his relationship with television talk show host Dick Cavett. The film is directed by Robert S. Bader.

Premiering Feb. 18, the documentary We Are The Dream: The Kids of The Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest chronicles the months leading up to the 10th annual Martin Luther King Oratorical Festival in Oakland, California, at which hundreds of pre-K through 12th grade students compete. It is directed by Emmy winner Amy Schatz and executive produced by Mahershala Ali.

In March, HBO has slated After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News, directed by Andrew Rossi and executive producer by Brian Stelter. The documentary will examine the impact of disinformation, conspiracy theories and false news stories in the U.S.

Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections, also premiering in March, takes a look into the security of election technology and how “unprotected” voting systems are in the U.S. The film follows Finnish hacker turned election expert Harri Hursti as he investigates election-related hacks. The film is by Simon Ardizzone, Russell Michaels and Sarah Teale.

Moving into April, the docuseries Atlanta Child Murders (w/t) offers a look at the abduction and murder of at least 30 African American children and young adults in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

The series is produced and directed by the team at New York-based prodco Show of Force, including Joshua Bennett, Maro Chermayeff and Jeff Dupre, and Sam Pollard. It is executive produced by Patrick Reardon of Roc Nation and by the team at John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co., including Legend, Mike Jackson and Ty Stiklorius.

Elsewhere, Sasha Alpert’s feature film Autism: The Sequel (April) will serve as the follow up to 2007′s Emmy Award-winning Autism: The Musical and traces five young adults on the spectrum as they navigate their early 20′s. The film will interweave present day interviews and archive footage of the participants and their families from 12 years earlier.

The Art of Political Murder, from director Paul Taylor and producer Teddy Leifer, will recount the story of the 1998 murder of Guatemalan human rights activist Bishop Juan Gerardi, which “stunned a country ravaged by decades of political violence.” The project is slated to premiere in April and is executive produced by Academy Award winner George Clooney and Grant Heslov. 

Meanwhile, Laurent Bouzereau’s previously announced feature-length film Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind has been given a May premiere date. The film, executive produced by Amblin Television’s Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey, offers a personal look at the seminal Hollywood actor’s personal and professional triumphs and challenges from the unique perspective of her daughter, Natasha Gregson Wagner. The doc will also feature previously unseen home movies, photographs, diaries and letters, as well as interviews with those that knew her best.

David France’s feature-length documentary Welcome to Chechnya, which enjoys its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival later this month, will premiere across the premium cable network this June. The investigative documentary provides unfiltered access to a group of Chechen activists risking their lives to expose the underreported atrocities of anti-LGBTQ persecution – part of a deadly “cleansing” campaign – in the repressive Russian republic.

Also scheduled for broadcast in June is Ivy Meeropol’s Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn. The film offers an unflinching look at the infamous attorney who prosecuted the director’s grandparents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and later argued persuasively for their execution in what became known as the “atomic spies” case.

Finally, Transhood, directed and produced by Sharon Liese, will also mark its television debut this June. Filmed over a five-year period in Kansas City, the doc follows four transgender kids – beginning at ages 4, 7, 12, and 15 – as they navigate the intimate challenges in attempting to find purpose in their identities as transgender families.

By Daniele Alcinii, Frederick Blichert and Jillian Morgan

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.