Alex Gibney Strikes Deal to Make Documentaries for New CNN Films Unit

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The division will acquire docs that examine political, social and economic subjects that will air on the cable news organization's U.S. and international networks.

CNN has created a film unit to acquire feature-length documentaries to air on the cable news organization's U.S. and international networks.

CNN Films has signed development deals with Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer) and director Andrew Rossi (Page One: Inside the New York Times) to create original documentaries for CNN. Gibney has worked closely with HBO, where many of his films including Taxi to the Dark Side and the upcoming Mea Maxima Culpa, about child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, have received their television premieres.

CNN Films will kick off with Girl RisingRichard Robbins' documentary about ten girls from ten countries who are battling the odds to achieve their dreams. The girls featured were each selected by prominent female writers including Edwidge Danticat (who emigrated from Haiti to Brooklyn when she was a girl) and Egyptian writer and activist Mona Eltahawy. The film is produced by global action campaign 10 X 10, which promotes girls’ education. Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Selena Gomez and Kerry Washington are among the celebrities who narrate the film. Girl Rising will air on CNN’s networks in 2013, in conjunction with a theatrical release.

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“CNN Films will bring distinguished, thought-provoking documentary programming to our global audiences on all our television, online and mobile platforms,” Mark Whitaker, CNN Worldwide managing editor, said in a statement. “We want these documentaries to tell compelling stories and stimulate important discussions across CNN’s other programs and websites.”

The documentaries will center on political, social, and economic subjects that will also be examined in various CNN programs that air around each film. The unit is the latest programming announcement from the network, which has been struggling with sinking ratings that hastened the departure of CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton, who will step down at the end of the year.

CNN previously announced deals with Anthony Bourdain and Morgan Spurlock. Bourdain’s show, a “bigger and better” version of his Travel Channel program No Reservations, is set to bow early next year on CNN, where it will air in primetime on weekends. Bourdain also will contribute to other CNN programs. And Spurlock's series Inside Man, which will have the filmmaker and unscripted star exploring subcultures including migrant farm workers, marijuana growers and end-of-life caregivers, is set to premiere in April.


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