HBO Documentary Films has scheduled a compelling array of diverse, timely and thought-provoking films to debut on HBO in the coming months. Highlights include a trip back to New Orleans in Spike Lee’s IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON’T RISE, a look at celebrity culture in Adrian Grenier’s TEENAGE PAPARAZZO and a study of the effects of post-traumatic stress on military personnel and their families in Jon Alpert & Matthew O’Neill’s WARTORN: 1861-2010, from executive producer James Gandolfini.
Upcoming HBO documentaries include (in chronological order):
IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON’T RISE (debuting Aug. 23 and 24), an all-new, four-hour documentary, follows director Spike Lee five years after Hurricane Katrina as he returns to New Orleans to see how the ambitious plans to reinvent the Crescent City are playing out. He finds a patchwork of hope and heartache in a story book-ended by a pair of momentous events — the historic 2010 Super Bowl victory and the disastrous British Petroleum oil spill — that changed the history of America’s most unique city once again.
MY TRIP TO AL-QAEDA (Sept. 7), a collaboration between Oscar®-winning director Alex Gibney (HBO’s “Taxi to the Dark Side”) and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Lawrence Wright, brings Wright’s acclaimed one-man play to the screen. Developed from Wright’s 2006 best-selling book “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11,” the film is an emotional journey performed by Wright, chronicling fundamentalist Islam’s rise to power and the dilemma he faces as a writer in maintaining his objectivity.
THE FENCE (Sept. 16), the latest film from Rory Kennedy (HBO’s Emmy®-winning “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib”), which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, investigates the impact of the 700-mile fence that was built by the U.S. government along the 2000-mile-plus Mexican border, and has involved 350 engineers, thousands of construction workers, tens of thousands of tons of metal and billions of dollars since 2006. It reveals how the fence’s stated goals – containing illegal immigration, cracking down on drug trafficking and protecting America from terrorists – have given way to unforeseen, even absurd consequences, asking the question: Was it all worth it?
TEENAGE PAPARAZZO (Sept. 27) chronicles the relationship between 14-year-old paparazzo Austin Visschedyk and Adrian Grenier, star of the HBO series “Entourage.” Inspired by a chance encounter with Visschedyk, Grenier turns the cameras on him in an effort to document this unique teenager’s world. But the actor-director soon finds the project becoming a personal challenge, as he is forced to take responsibility for his influence on his subject’s life. Ultimately, the film is an intimate look at paparazzi and the celebrity culture they serve.
SINS OF MY FATHER (Oct. 4) tells the fascinating inside story of Pablo Escobar, the most notorious drug lord in Colombian history, through the eyes of Sebastian Marroquin, his only son, who changed his name and fled Colombia after his father’s death. For the first time in more than a decade, Marroquin and his mother, Maria Victoria, break their silence in deeply personal interviews, while never-before-seen pictures and home movies from the Escobar archive paint an intimate portrait of their family life. The documentary also provides an up-close view of Marroquin’s efforts at reconciliation with the men whose prominent political fathers were killed by Escobar 20 years ago. Directed by Nicolas Entel.
MONICA & DAVID (Oct. 14) explores the marriage of two adults with Down syndrome and the parents who strive to support their needs. Full of humor, romance and everyday family drama, the film weaves together intimate footage and personal interviews, beginning with Monica and David’s storybook wedding and chronicling their challenging first year of marriage in pursuit of an independent life together. Winner of the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival Best Documentary Feature Award, the film was directed by first-time filmmaker Alexandra Codina.
WARTORN: 1861-2010 (Nov. 11) explores combat stress and post-traumatic stress in the military throughout American history, chronicling its effect on military personnel and their families. Directed by Jon Alpert and Ellen Goosenberg Kent and executive produced by James Gandolfini (HBO’s “Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq”).
PUBLIC SPEAKING (Nov.) is a conversation with New York writer Fran Lebowitz about her experiences and views of the world, spotlighting her trademark humor. Directed by Oscar®-winner Martin Scorsese and produced by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter.
WISHFUL DRINKING (Dec.), a feature-length adaptation of Hollywood icon Carrie Fisher’s hit autobiographical stage production, tells the intoxicating tale of her life, combining her raucous one-woman stage performance, interviews with family and friends and archival footage. Produced and directed by World of Wonder’s Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey.
WOMAN REBEL (debuting Aug. 18) journeys to Nepal, where nearly 40% of the guerillas in the rebel army that fought to overthrow the government from 1996 to 2006 were women. The film follows one of them, Uma Bhujel (army codename “Silu”), from the jungles of the revolution all the way to the halls of Parliament, capturing a turning point in the country’s history. Directed by first-time filmmaker Kiran Deol.
WAR DON DON (Sept. 22) chronicles the sensational trial of Issa Sesay in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Prosecutors accuse him of war crimes; supporters call him a reluctant fighter who protected civilians and played a crucial role in bringing peace to the country. The film features unrestricted access to prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims and Sesay himself. Directed by first-time filmmaker Rebecca Richman Cohen.
DARK LIGHT: THE ART OF BLIND PHOTOGRAPHERS (Oct.) explores the artistry and innovation of blind photographers Pete Eckert, Bruce Hall and Henry Butler, whose luminous work can help others see the world through their eyes. The film asks the questions: Can vision succeed where eyesight fails? Can a blind person make meaningful photographs? How can the creator appreciate his own work?
Oscar®-nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject this year, THE LAST CAMPAIGN OF GOVERNOR BOOTH GARDNER (Nov. 3) follows the former Washington State governor’s “Death with Dignity” campaign to legalize physician-assisted suicide after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1993. Directed by Daniel Junge (HBO’s “They Killed Sister Dorothy”), the film looks at both sides of the hotly-debated issue, painting an intimate portrait of a man who battles his own physical deterioration as he works to pass the legislation and solidify his legacy.
TOP 10 MONKS (Dec.) is the story of Cistercian monks living in a 12th-century monastery near Vienna who scored a surprise Top 10 hit in Europe with an album of Gregorian chants. The documentary shows how they cope with the effects – and incongruities – of pop “stardom.” Directed by Dana Perry (HBO’s “Boy Interrupted”).