Continuing its commitment to timely and thought-provoking programming, HBO will debut a diverse array of documentaries in coming months, including: THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST, the highly anticipated Sunday-night series from Oscar nominee Andrew Jarecki; Oscar–winner Alex Gibney’s GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF, a look inside the controversial religion; and Brett Morgen’s KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK, the first fully-authorized documentary about the iconic leader of Nirvana.
Here is a brief description of the upcoming documentaries placed in chronological order. HBOWatch will be reviewing each one in turn.
NIGHT WILL FALL (debuting January 26) reveals the untold story behind an unfinished 1945 documentary, whose artistic team included supervising director Alfred Hitchcock, about the horrors of World War II concentration camps. This harrowing presentation combines restored, rarely-seen archival footage and eyewitness testimony, providing a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at the making of the forgotten film. Narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, directed by André Singer and produced by Sally Angel and Brett Ratner, it is also being presented by broadcasters internationally in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST (debuting Sundays February 8-March 15) spotlights Robert Durst (pictured), the scion of New York’s billionaire real estate family, who has been accused of three murders over the past 30 years, but never convicted. Brilliant, reclusive and the subject of relentless media scrutiny, Durst has never spoken publicly – until now. Directed and produced by Andrew Jarecki and produced and shot by Marc Smerling (the Oscar nominees behind Capturing the Friedmans), the groundbreaking six-part documentary series tracks Durst’s strange history against the backdrop of unimaginable wealth and privilege. The filmmakers’ seven-year investigation and the extraordinary relationship that evolves between filmmaker and suspect ultimately reveal secrets that have baffled authorities for 30 years.
ROSIE O’DONNELL: A HEARTFELT STAND UP (February 14) features O’Donnell in a hybrid form of standup comedy, inspired by her recent near-fatal heart attack. In a comic and touching performance, she shares her experience with heart disease, the leading cause of death among American women, and explores topics ranging from the challenges of raising five children to her obsession with Barbra Streisand. O’Donnell’s return to the stage is an honest, hilarious and intimate take on life. Directed by Dan Chaykin.
CITIZENFOUR (February 23), one of the most acclaimed films of 2014, is a real-life thriller that unfolds by the minute. The film follows director Laura Poitras (The Oath), and journalist Glenn Greenwald as they encounter Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, where he hands over classified documents providing evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA). Winner of multiple awards, including the 2014 Gotham Award, the IDA Award and numerous critics circle awards, the timely film is an inside look at the media storm raging after the release of Snowden’s revelations, showing how Poitras, Greenwald and Snowden attempt to manage it.
GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF (March 16), based on Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright’s book, is directed by Oscar winner Alex Gibney (HBO’s MR. DYNAMITE: THE RISE OF JAMES BROWN and Taxi to the Dark Side). The powerful film profiles eight former members of Scientology, exploring the psychological impact of blind faith and shining a light on how the controversial church attracts true believers.
IT’S ME, HILARY: THE MAN WHO DREW ELOISE (March 23) paints an intimate portrait of Hilary Knight, the illustrator behind the iconic Eloise (pictured) books, as he reflects on his life as an illustrator and his relationship to his most successful work. Executive produced by Lena Dunham (HBO’s GIRLS), an Eloise fan since childhood, the film reveals an artist stunted by early success and haunted by personal failures, but always deeply devoted to his most famous creation. Directed by Matt Wolf; executive produced by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner; produced by Stacey Reiss.
LIVING WITH LINCOLN (April 13) explores one contemporary family’s physical and emotional connection to Abraham Lincoln, drawing on a rarely collection of 19th-century photography. Directed by Peter Kunhardt (HBO’s Emmy-nominated GLORIA: IN HER OWN WORDS and Emmy-winning JFK: IN HIS OWN WORDS and Brian Oakes, the film reveals a personal side of Lincoln through a modern-day journey of discovery, obsession, depression and despair.
TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER (April 27) is a shocking investigation of Lonnie Franklin Jr., arrested in 2010 as the alleged perpetrator of a 25-year killing spree in South Central Los Angeles in which he may have murdered more than 100 victims – most of them young, African-American women marginalized by addiction and poverty. Critically acclaimed documentarian Nick Broomfield reveals the lack of action by the Los Angeles police force, who found the link between Franklin and the murders not through painstaking detective work, but by accident, and gives voice to a neglected community that has survived despite the odds, ultimately conveying a sense of grave injustice that extends well beyond this case.
KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK (May 4), the first fully-authorized documentary about the iconic leader of Nirvana, is a raw and visceral journey through his life. The film provides no-holds-barred access to Cobain’s archives, home to his never-before-seen home movies, recordings, artwork, photography, journals, demos, personal archives and songbooks. Directed by Oscar nominee Brett Morgen (HBO’s CROSSFIRE HURRICANE and The Kid Stays in the Picture) and executive produced by Cobain’s daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, it features dozens of Nirvana songs and performances, as well as previously unheard Cobain originals.
SOUTHERN RITES (May 18) visits Montgomery County, Ga., one year after the town merged its racially segregated proms, and during a historic election campaign that may lead to its first African-American sheriff. Acclaimed photographer Gillian Laub, whose photos first brought the area unwanted notoriety, documents the repercussions when a white town resident is charged with the murder of a young black man. The case divides locals along well-worn racial lines, and the ensuing plea bargain and sentencing uncover complex truths and produce emotional revelations. This timely film debuts the week of the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision 61 years ago. Executive produced by John Legend, Troy Carter and Mike Jackson; produced by Josh Alexander.
SAVING MY TOMORROW (April 22, May) is a series of documentary family specials about the environment produced in association with the American Museum of Natural History. The programs feature a collection of songs, activism and heartfelt tips from the children who will inherit the planet. Scenes with Museum scientists explore how plants and animals are affected by a changing earth. SAVING MY TOMORROW celebrates the natural world and is a call from kids to kids to help take care of the environment. The series features readings and performances by Alan Cumming, Tina Fey, Karen O, Audra McDonald, Liam Neeson, Willie Nelson, Jeffrey Wright and Dan Zanes, and an appearance by Pharrell Williams, among others.
THE LION’S MOUTH OPENS (May 25) follows courageous young filmmaker-actress Marianna Palka (pictured), who gathers her friends together to share the moment when shefinds out whether she has inherited Huntington’s disease from her father. The moving film is directed by Lucy Walker (HBO’s THE CRASH REEL).
We now take a moment to reflect back on the documentaries of 2014. We are sure you didn’t follow us every step of the way as we reviewed EVERY film as the debuted on HBO. You can always seek them out on HBOGo and at the HBOStore.
The tiles, chronological order were the following: THE EDUCATION OF MOHAMMAD HUSSEIN, HERBLOCK- THE BLACK & THE WHITE, QUESTIONING DARWIN with the most comments garnered for the hot topic of evolution vs creationism, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN, PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF KATRINA GILBERT, PRISON TERMINAL: THE LAST DAYS OF PRIVATE JACK HALL, an early 2014 favorite for this writer, THE UNIVERSITY OF SING SING, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’S HIGH HOPES, ONE LAST HUG: THREE DAYS AT GREIF CAMP, ALL ABOUT ANN: GOVERNOR RICHARDS OF THE LONE STAR STATE, which had, for whatever reason, the most shares on social media, THE DEAD MOTHERS CLUB, REMEMBERING THE ARTIST: ROBERT DE NIRO, SR. and 112 WEDDINGS.
The back half of the year aired THE CASE AGAINST 8, DANGEROUS ACTS STARRING THE UNSTABLE ELEMENTS OF BELARUS, THE NEWBURGH STING, a favorite from the back half of the year, LOVE CHILD, NIXON BY NIXON: IN HIS OWN WORDS, CAPTIVATED THE TRIALS OF PAMELA SMART, A GOOD JOB: STORIES FROM THE NYFD, TERROR AT THE MALL, THE 50 ARGUMENT, HUNTED: THE WAR AGAINST GAYS IN RUSSIA, PRIVATE VIOLENCE, MR. DYNAMITE: THE RISE OF JAMES BROWN after which I did “feel good”, THE LAST PATROL, REGARDING SUSAN SONTAG and SAVING MY TOMORROW. Plus there was one episode of the HBO series SEX//NOW, and installments of STATE OF PLAY, FOO FIGHTERS: SONIC HIGHWAY and VICE.
So keeping track of my favorites to date we add from 2014 – my favorite pick of TERROR AT THE MALL with THE NEWBURGH STING a close second. They join, from 2013, HOW DO I GET TO THE FRONT FROM HERE? And LIFE ACCORDING TO SAM and from 2012, MARINA ABRAMOVICH: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT and PROJECT NIM. Here, once again is the trailer from my favorite documentary in 2014 – TERROR AT THE MALL.
The comment section below awaits your pick for the best HBO documentary of 2015 and what you may like from the upcoming slate so far for 2015.