Doc ‘Taking on Taylor Swift’ to Stream on Max Oct. 20

As Taylor Swift’s record-breaking Eras Tour expands around the globe and onto the silver screen, Taking on Taylor Swift, CNN’s investigation into the copyright lawsuit brought by songwriters Sean Hall and Nathan Butler against Swift for her hit song “Shake It Off,” will stream on Max Oct. 20.

Produced by the CNN FlashDocs unit, the special explores creativity, credit, and the hazy line between cultural appreciation and appropriation.
 
The 2017 lawsuit, which was settled and dismissed in 2022, alleged the chorus of Swift’s hit song, “Shake It Off” (“’cause the players gonna play, play, play…”) is a direct lift from the 2000 song, “Playas Gon’ Play” written by Hall and Butler, and made famous by the girl group, 3LW.  For the first time since taking legal action, Hall spoke exclusively to CNN, along with his attorney Marina V. Bogorad, about their experience taking on an indisputable giant of the music industry. 

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Taking on Taylor Swift scrutinizes the legal, ethical and cultural merits of this case and similar lawsuits lodged against some of the world’s biggest pop stars. The special features insights from songwriters Tayla Parx and Kandi Burruss, and observations from critics and journalists including Shirley Halperin (Los Angeles Magazine), Sidney Madden (NPR), and Mikael Wood (Los Angeles Times).
 
For CNN FlashDocs, Eric Johnson serves as an Executive Producer and Emily Taguchi serves as Supervising Producer. The unit is led by Katie Hinman, VP of program development for CNN Worldwide.

View the trailer here.

BBC Select Streaming Service Bows Natural History Doc Collection

BBC Select, the BBC’s ad-free documentary streaming service, has launched a curated natural history documentary collection. 

With wildlife and environmental programming spanning all seven continents, BBC Select’s earth-focused documentaries offer viewers the chance to dive deep into the beauty of the natural world and learn about how the planet, and the environmental threats it faces, has evolved over the last decades.  

The collection is dedicated to showcasing the best of the BBC’s nature, wildlife, and science programming, with more than 100 hours of content dating back to 1954, including titles featuring the widely beloved natural historian Sir David Attenborough and popular physicist and science presenter Brian Cox. 

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BBC Select will also be the home of new, emerging natural science documentaries beginning with the premiere of North Atlantic: The Dark Ocean, available now to U.S. and Canadian audiences for the first time. Additional content highlights, made available with the launch of the natural history collection, include: 

  • “David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities” — Wildlife legend David Attenborough encounters some of the planet’s oddest inhabitants.
  • “Life on Earth: A Natural History by David Attenborough” — The landmark natural history documentary took three years to make and traveled to locations all over the world.
  • “Zoo Quest in Colour” — Thanks to a remarkable discovery in the BBC’s film vaults, the best of David Attenborough’s breakthrough nature documentary can now be experienced in color.
  • “The Wonders of Life with Brian Cox” — Brian Cox investigates the most complex and unique feature of our universe: life.
  • “North Atlantic: The Dark Ocean” — The natural history documentary sees underwater cameraman Ken O’Sullivan explore the perilous North Atlantic Ocean and discovers the mesmerizing marine life that lives there.
  • “Our Coast” — The travel documentary visits Scotland, Wales, England, and Northern Ireland and celebrates the heritage of these astonishing locations.
  • “Penguins: Meet the Family” — The nature documentary covers all 18 species of penguin.
     

Launched in the United States and Canada in 2021, BBC Select is available to audiences in the two territories via Amazon Prime Video Channels, the Apple TV app and the Roku Channel. 

HBO and Max to Bow Doc ‘Donyale Luna: Supermodel’ Sept. 13

The HBO Original documentary film Donyale Luna: Supermodel debuts Sept. 13 on HBO and will be available to stream on Max.
 
Directed by Nailah Jefferson (HBO’s “Plaquemines”), the documentary chronicles the life and career of Donyale Luna, the first Black model to grace the cover of both Harper’s Bazaar (1965) and Vogue (1966). Breaking barriers in the fashion industry, challenging the prevailing ideals of beauty, and influencing culture in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Luna remains largely unknown despite her stunning body of work and her collaborations with some of the foremost fashion photographers of the 20th century.
 
Donyale Luna: Supermodel details the complex backstory of Luna, born Peggy Ann Freeman in Detroit, Mich., who forged her own destiny by creating an otherworldly persona — a larger-than-life character with an exotic accent and a mysterious aura. Echoing Luna’s unique style, the film highlights the story of someone who refused to be boxed in by the conventions of the time, and who had great wounds from her difficult childhood and the racism she encountered in her profession. After working in New York with famed photographer Richard Avedon and collaborating with Andy Warhol, Luna made her way to London in the 1960s, feeling more at home in Europe, where she also worked with Salvador Dali. She later met and married photographer Luigi Cazzaniga in Italy, where she explored her true love, avant-garde theater and film, before her early death at the age of 33. In revealing moments in the film, Luna’s daughter Dream Cazzaniga reads from Luna’s journals and a poetic portrait emerges of one of the first Black models to change the beauty paradigm, breaking down the doors of the white modeling world, inspiring generations to come, and leaving a far-reaching legacy. 

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Contextualizing Luna’s influence on the fashion and art world in the 1960s are Luna’s daughter Dream Cazzaniga; her husband Luigi Cazzaniga; supermodels Beverly Johnson and Pat Cleveland; Vogue global editor-at-large Hamish Bowles; photographers David Bailey, David McCabe and Gideon Lewin; fashion designers Zandra Rhodes and Aurora James; art history professor Dr. Richard J. Powell; former Essence editor-in-chief Constance White; former president of Next Model MGMT Kyle Hagler; and friends and family members.

Doc ‘The Last Autumn’ Bows Digitally June 30 From Film Movement

The documentary The Last Autumn will be released on VOD and digital June 30 from Film Movement.

Centuries ago, humans first arrived with their livestock on the isolated Icelandic coast — a remote land pushed up against the inhospitable Arctic Ocean that has been home to generations of farmers. Úlfar and Oddny (an aging Icelandic couple) are among this legacy, completely in rhythm with the land and tuned in to the cyclical nature of farm work. As autumn approaches, and their children and grandchildren arrive from the cities to assist in the seasonal sheep herding, one thing becomes clear — this will be the family’s final descent from the surrounding hills with their flock. With life in rural Iceland changing and Úlfar and Oddny growing older, the family understands this is the end of an era.

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An official selection at documentary and film fests around the world — including Karlovy Vary, DOK Leipzig, CPH: Dox, Thessaloniki and HotDocs — The Last Autumn also received a Special Jury Mention in the New Visions Competition at the 2019 Reykjavik International Film Festival in 2019.

 

Doc Series ‘The Golden Boy’ Headed to HBO and Max July 24

The HBO original two-part documentary The Golden Boy debuts July 24 (9 p.m. ET/PT), followed by part two on July 25 at the same time on HBO. Both episodes will be available to stream on Max beginning July 24.

Directed by Fernando Villena (HBO’s “Dear Rider” and “Any One of Us”), the documentary will celebrate its world premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Festival.
 
By the age of 19, Oscar De La Hoya was an Olympic boxing gold medalist, a multi-world-title-winning professional boxer, a hometown hero and a role model to his Mexican-American community in East Los Angeles. Nicknamed “The Golden Boy,” De La Hoya — with his good looks, electric charisma, and heartfelt story of winning Olympic gold for his dying mother — rocketed to national prominence as a superstar both in and outside the ring. But all was not what it appeared to be behind that polished facade. 

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Told in De La Hoya’s own words through a series of candid interviews with him and those closest to him, and featuring rare archival footage, The Golden Boy peels back the layers of this celebrated yet complicated figure, exploring his triumphs and turmoil to reveal a man struggling to come to terms with lifelong demons and the impossible burden of a nickname he couldn’t live up to.

Doc ‘Just. One. Mile.’ Available Digitally June 27 From Virgil

Virgil Films will release the documentary Just. One. Mile. for digital purchase and VOD June 27.

It follows one of the most grueling and psychologically challenging endurance races in the world, in which a hundred runners come together to take on a treacherous, continuous one-mile loop in the mountains of Tennessee. For over 30 straight hours, these athletes compete against each other and mother nature until only one is left standing. It’s called the Mid-state Mile, but it’s better known as The Murder Mile. Runners are given 20 minutes to complete the loop and must be back at the starting corral ready to begin the next one in time. There’s no stopping and no aid allowed. Each mile features more than 340 feet of elevation gained. A winner is only declared if they can complete a solo victory lap.

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MTV Doc Films Acquires ‘Pay or Die’ to Stream on Paramount+ After Hitting Theaters

MTV Documentary Films has acquired worldwide rights to the documentary feature Pay or Die

The film will serve as the closing night event at the upcoming Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York City on June 8. MTV Documentary Films is planning a theatrical release later this year before the film’s streaming premiere launch on Paramount+. 

Directed and produced by award-winning directors Scott Alexander Ruderman and Rachael Dyer, the film explores the fact that there are nearly 2 million Americans living with diabetes being held hostage by the pharmaceutical industry, as many cannot afford insulin and the cost to patients in America soars. Without this life-sustaining drug, they will be dead in days. The film follows families struggling to afford their medications and reveals the harrowing reality of living with a chronic illness in the richest country in the world. From a mother-and-daughter struggling to rebuild their lives after spending their rent money on insulin, to a young adult diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes during the COVID-19 pandemic, to a Minnesota family thrust into the national spotlight when their 26-year-old son dies from rationing his insulin, Pay or Die highlights this devastating struggle to survive while living with diabetes.

“This film, in the tradition of documentaries that nudge the world, exposes the astronomical and unconscionable costs of life saving drugs. The big business of Pharma rules over whether the afflicted will live or die,” said executive producer Sheila Nevins in a statement.

Pay or Die plays like a horror film that’s both urgent and harrowing; a must see that will leave viewers on the edge of their seats in utter disbelief” Nina L. Diaz and Liza Burnett Fefferman, co-heads of MTV Documentary Films, said in a statement.

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“Knowing that Americans are dying trying to afford the same lifesaving medication that keeps me alive left Rachael and me enraged,” filmmakers Ruderman and Dyer said in a statement. “As filmmakers, we knew we had to highlight this social injustice. Our film, Pay or Die will serve as a cautionary tale for the whole world to understand what happens when healthcare is treated too much like a business and not a public service. We are honored to join forces with MTV Documentary Films to strengthen the voices that need to be heard so change can be made.”

FilmRise, Canal+ Docs Team to Distribute Indigenous Crime Doc ‘Missing From Fire Trail Road’

New York-based film and television studio and streaming network FilmRise  and Canal+ Docs, the French TV Network part of Canal+, have teamed up to release the newest documentary from director Sabrina Van Tassel (The Silenced Walls, The State of Texas vs. Melissa) — Missing From Fire Trail Road.

FilmRise will have worldwide distribution rights, all media, excluding France and French speaking territories overseas and in Africa, which Canal+ Docs will hold.

The film delves into the case of Mary Ellen Johnson-Davis, a Native-American woman who disappeared in 2020, and exposes how hundreds of indigenous women continue to go missing in the United States, perpetuating transgenerational trauma on Indian reservations. On Nov. 25, 2020, Johnson-Davis disappeared from the Tulalip tribe, a small and peaceful community near Seattle. Her case highlights a harsh and shameful truth: Native-American women go missing at a higher rate than any other population in the United States. Most of these crimes go unsolved and are committed by non-natives. Complex tribal jurisdictional issues and lack of full reporting and accounting of missing indigenous people have created legal loopholes on Indian reservations. The situation has turned reservations into hunting grounds for serial rapists and large-scale sex-trafficking.

“Sabrina is a brilliant filmmaker whose documentaries bring awareness to topics and subjects that are often overlooked, but are no less important,” Max Einhorn, SVP of acquisitions and co-productions at FilmRise, said in a statement. “We are honored to be working with Sabrina on her follow-up to State of Texas vs. Melissa, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be collaborating with Canal+. The atrocities committed against indigenous communities must become a mainstream issue so we can bring about change.” 

“After acquiring The State of Texas vs Melissa, we supported Sabrina’s incredible impact campaign which helped save Melissa Lucio’s life,” Christine Cauquelin, group director of documentaries for  Canal+, said in a statement. “Today, we are thrilled to be on board of with her new film. Thousands of Native American women go missing in the U.S. in utter indifference, and it is time this urgent matter be brought to the table. We are proud to accompany Sabrina, along with FilmRise, on this important documentary.”

“I feel compelled to expose these stories of missing indigenous women who are forgotten and whose cases never receive any public attention,” Van Tassel said in a statement. “More than a crime doc, this film will explore how the traumas have passed on from generation to generation since first contact between natives and European settlers. I feel extremely lucky to have both FilmRise and Canal+ Docs supporting me on this project.”

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Van Tassel is known for her documentaries focusing on social justice and political matters. Her 2020 feature The State of Texas vs. Melissa led to numerous petitions for a stay of execution for Melissa Luccio, who was to be the first Hispanic woman executed in Texas.

Doc ‘Yes I Am — The Ric Weiland Story’ Due Digitally May 16, on DVD July 11 From Virgil

Virgil Films will release the documentary Yes I Am — The Ric Weiland Story, about the unknown founder of Microsoft, on digital May 16 and on DVD July 11.

The documentary chronicles LGBTQ pioneer and unknown founder of Microsoft Ric Weiland. With his newfound wealth, Weiland turned to philanthropy. During his life, he donated more than $200 million to fund more than 60 nonprofit organizations. His efforts still have a massive impact today. However, as his wealth grew, Weiland seemed to slip further into self-doubt, depression, and a kind of impostor syndrome.

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Documentary ‘All These Sons’ Available on VOD From Gravitas Ventures

Gravitas Ventures, an Anthem Sports & Entertainment company, has acquired exclusive VOD distribution rights in the United States and Canada to All These Sons — available now on VOD.

The sophomore documentary of Academy and Emmy Award-nominated director Bing Liu (Minding the Gap) and feature directorial debut of award-winning editor Joshua Altman premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, where it won Best Cinematography, Documentary Feature. 

All These Sons is a compassionate look at two Chicago groups dedicated to educating and empowering young Black individuals on Chicago’s South and West sides. The programs attempt to disrupt the conditions that produce violence in the first place by holistically investing in the young people most at risk of being victims or perpetrators of gun violence through street outreach, life coaching, education, employment and more.

“This documentary is vital because it adds the rich and complex human dimension to the ‘gun violence epidemic’ narrative in Chicago,” Marshall Hatch Jr., executive director of the MAAFA Redemption Project, one of the organizations highlighted in the film, said in a statement. “The young men and women at the center of the film, the historical context that informs their neighborhood conditions, and the creative community-led solutions that are bubbling up are important ingredients to the current national discourse around ‘public safety.’”

Filmmakers Liu and Altman follow three program participants — Shamont, Zay and Charles — as they wrestle with their pasts and, with the guidance of their mentors, construct a better future.

“The film makes clear that the genius and promise of Chicago’s young people are key to moving us forward,” Hatch Jr. added. “For this reason, the response to the film has been largely the same. There is a real sense of hope for an issue that often feels intractable.”

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Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is managing partner of Chicago CRED, an organization committed to reducing gun violence in Chicago that works with many of the participants highlighted in the film.

“The film elevates the voices of individuals at risk who are putting down their guns and changing their lives,” he said in a statement. “To those still caught up in lives of violence, this film shows what’s possible.”

“We went in wanting to draw attention towards the work being done to uplift communities on Chicago’s South and West sides as an alternative way of addressing the gun violence there,” filmmakers Liu and Altman said in a statement. “Throughout our time filming, we were reminded of the historical oppression folks in these communities have faced but also inspired by their resilience and the lessons of forgiveness and Sankofa — reaching back to the past in order to construct a better future.”

All These Sons is produced by Concordia Studio, Zak Piper, Kelsey Carr, Bing Liu and Joshua Altman. The film is executive produced by Davis Guggenheim, Laurene Powell Jobs, Nicole Stott, Jonathan Silberberg, Rahdi Taylor and Shannon Dill. Carina Nieto is co-producer.