HBO Documentary Development Slate: Boston, Ebola, Nichols & More

Doc_HeaderWe have just about heard from every aspect of HBO going forward into 2016 except what the plan is for HBO Documentary Films. Usually by now Shelia Nevins and her department drop an announcement stating the documentaries to premiere for the first half of the year and if there is any special programming notes relating. So far we haven’t heard a word.

We will assume, unless told otherwise, that Monday night will remain documentary night with premieres at 9:00pm. Encore presentations will round out the schedule. What HBOWatch can give those interested is an outline of those films we know to be in the pipeline. What we have below is our best guess until the official press release drops.


  • BODY TEAM 12 Acquired

HBO has acquired the rights to air this documentary about a team of heroic Liberian Red Cross workers who were tasked with collecting the dead during the height of the Ebola outbreak in Africa. One such unit was known as Body Team 12.

Docs_BodyTeam12The film won top awards this year at the Tribeca Film Festival Executive produced by Paul G. Allen and Olivia Wilde, and produced by RYOT Co-founder Bryn Mooser, BODY TEAM 12 lays bare the heartbreaking but lifesaving work of removing bodies from loved ones in order to halt the transmission of the disease. The filmmakers capture devastating and poignant images, shot on the ground in Monrovia, Liberia, that reveal the Ebola crisis through the story of Garmai Sumo, the sole female member of the body collection team.

It should be one harrowing documentary to take in, but an impactful one. Look for it soon on HBO.



  • ONLY THE DEAD to Hit

In the tradition of WITNESS: and war correspondent documentaries before it ONLY THE DEAD goes to the front lines and beyond to tell its story. This documentary follows Australian filmmaker Michael Ware (pictured)  as he faces the Islamic State.People_MichaelWare-300x169

The film is an intensely personal account of Ware’s experiences during eight years in Iraq as a correspondent for CNN and Time magazine, filmed on a video camera he’d bought on the black market in Kurdistan. He is quoted as saying –

“The viewer, like I did on the ground in reality, will witness the birth of Islamic State. You will also see how America’s young men, soldiers and Marines, fight these people…but more importantly how it shaves away at their souls. When you have to reach out and fight against a great darkness, that darkness touches you back.”

Look for this award winning documentary sometime soon on HBO.

(Source: Forbes)


  • The Boston Marathon Bombings Examined

BostonStrong-300x169HBO will give the documentary treatment to the city of Boston in the wake of a tragic moment. The still-untitled film plans to tell the story of April 15, 2013, and the frantic aftermath, through the personal stories (and photos and video and recorded telephone/Skype/FaceTime calls) of runners, first responders, and survivors.

It appears that the piece, by filmmakers Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, isn’t about the perpetrators and their motives as much as it looks at the city in the wake of the crime and of the lost and the survivors of that bombing. The film will come HBO’s way sometime this coming year.   

(Source: Boston Globe)


  • Robert Mapplethorpe Profiled

HBO has a blurb out now about MAPPLETHORPE: LOOK AT THE PICTURES so it must be debuting soon. We announced it was forthcoming back in April ’15. It is billed as “a definitive portrait of the provocative artist”People_RobertMapplethorpe-256x300 filmed by the acclaimed filmmakers Fenton Bailey & Randy Barbato.

HBO describes it best –

“Look at the pictures,” said Senator Jesse Helms, denouncing the controversial art of Robert Mapplethorpe (pictured), whose photographs pushed boundaries with frank depictions of nudity, sexuality and fetishism, igniting a culture war that rages to this day. More than 25 years later, this HBO Documentary Films presentation does just that, taking an unflinching and unprecedented look at his most provocative work. With complete and unprecedented access to The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, the documentary draws upon archival materials and features never-before seen photographs and footage.

Regardless of whether you are clueless or familiar and regardless of whether you appreciative the art or don’t viewers are in for a shocker when this detailed profile comes to HBO.


  • Mike Nichols Documentary

People_MikeNichols-300x154 The documentary BECOMING MIKE NICHOLS was snagged by HBO off of the festival circuit. This intimate portrait of the director, producer, and improvisational comedy icon shows his final and historic interviews filmed just months before his death. Director Douglas McGrath documents Nichols’s early life, as he opens up to his friend and director Jack O’Brien about the storied beginnings of his career.

 Nichols wowed movie and theatergoing audiences alike for more than six decades with a rich and deeply varied body of work that has included The Graduate on screen, the stage’s The Odd Couple and HBO’s WIT and ANGELS IN AMERICA. Directed by Douglas McGrath (Oscar-nominated writer and director), this documentary features an intimate, relaxed and candid exchange Mike Nichols had with theater director Jack O’Brien. A film buff should love this biography when it arrives on HBO.


And that is all we have been able to cobble together about what is ahead on the documentary front. Again, we will clarify when we have official word of the exact line-up and their debut dates.  

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