HBO Reveals Doc Lineup for First Half of 2020


HBO has confirmed its slate of documentaries for the first half of 2020 and also revealed that it is in production on the first project from its multi-film deal with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow.

The documentary slate includes Atlanta Child Murders (working title), a series reexamining the missing and murdered children of Atlanta in the late ’ 70s and early ’80s in collaboration with Show of Force, Roc Nation and Get Lifted Film Co. Welcome to Cechnya, meanwhile, chronicles a group of brave activists risking their lives to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ persecution in the repressive and closed Russian republic of Chechnya.

Other highlights include Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind, intimately exploring Natalie Wood’s life, career and tragic death through the unique perspective of her daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner and others who knew her best, and McMillion$, from executive producer Mark Wahlberg. The six-part documentary series chronicles the stranger-than-fiction story of the mysterious McDonald’s Monopoly game promotion scam and the mastermind who developed the complex scheme, stealing millions of dollars and building a vast network of co-conspirators across the U.S. It’s set to bow February 3.

Slated for February 11 is Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes, which offers a unique look at boxing legend Muhammad Ali by chronicling his life and career through the lens of his relationship with television talk show host Dick Cavett. We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest, set to premiere on February 18, chronicles the months leading up to the 40th annual festival, as schools across the city send their top-placing students to compete. It is a portrait of passionate young people raising their voices about issues they care about—racial injustice, immigration and more—and of a community that celebrates them. It’s directed by Emmy winner Amy Schatz and executive produced by Mahershala Ali.

Season three of Axios will continue to work with Axios journalists to cover it all—politics, business, technology—and share insight on other big topics shaping the future. After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News, set for March, examines the rising phenomenon of “fake news” in the U.S. and the impact that disinformation, conspiracy theories and false news stories have on the average citizen. The film focuses on several high-profile made-up news stories in recent years with real-world consequences, including the infamous “Pizzagate” case, the disinformation campaigns that influenced the 2016 presidential election, the Jade Helm conspiracy and others.

Kill Chain: The Cyber War on America’s Elections, also slated to bow in March, takes a chilling look into the security of election technology revealing how unprotected our voting systems really are. Following Harri Hursti, the legendary Finnish hacker turned election expert, as he investigates election-related hacks, the film also features candid interviews with key figures in the election security community as well as U.S. Senators from both parties who are fighting to protect the sanctity of the votes of U.S. citizens.

Also on HBO’s slate is Autism: The Sequel. The film follows five young adults on the spectrum as they navigate their early 20’s. Intercut with present-day interviews is footage of the same youth and their families shot 12 years ago for the Emmy-winning film Autism: The Musical. The Art of Political Murder, meanwhile, is based on Francisco Goldman’s book of the same name and executive produced by Oscar winner George Clooney and Grant Heslov. The 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.

Rounding out the slate for the first half of the year are Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn, which offers an unflinching look at the infamous attorney who prosecuted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and later argued persuasively for their execution in what became known as the “atomic spies” case, and Transhood, which was filmed over five years in Kansas City and follows four transgender kids—beginning at ages 4, 7, 12 and 15—as they redefine “coming of age.” Both documentaries are set for June.

Also in the works at HBO is the first project from the company’s multi-film deal with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow.

Farrow will collaborate with Academy Award-nominated directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp) of Loki Films to investigate threats, intimidation and violence directed at journalists working to expose corruption and abuse by governments, corporations and other powerful interests. The film will follow subjects in the U.S. and internationally.

“Around the world, journalists are under fire,” said Farrow. “They’re being spied on using new surveillance technology, imprisoned, even murdered. And we’re seeing evolving tactics deployed against reporters in the United States, too, against the backdrop of a new era of misinformation campaigns and rhetoric that seeks to undermine the very idea of objective reporting. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to work with Rachel, Heidi, and HBO to tell these stories.”

“We cannot think of a better place than HBO to bring audiences the first-hand stories of reporters taking huge risks in order to fight misinformation and to defend a free and informed society,” said Ewing.

“Reporters covering this upcoming political cycle will be working in a vitriolic, deeply divided country—and our cameras will bear witness to this make or break moment for America’s dedication to a free press,” added Grady.

“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. “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.”