HBO Orders 'Storm Over Brooklyn' Doc from 'Whitney' Producers

Muta'Ali - H - 2018
Credit: An-Nur Media

Muta'Ali's feature doc will tell the story of Yusuf Hawkins, whose death at the hands of white youths in Brooklyn in 1989 unleashed a torrent of racial tension.

HBO has green lighted the documentary Storm Over Brooklyn from Lightbox, the U.K.-based banner behind the recent Cannes-bowing Whitney and Oscar-winning Searching for Sugar Man.

The film is the winning project of the inaugural Feature Documentary Initiative from Lightbox and the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), as part of their joint initiative to foster diversity in the feature documentary arena.

Directed by Muta'Ali, Storm Over Brooklyn will tell the story of Yusuf Hawkins, a black American teenager who was shot and murdered after being trapped by a group of white youths in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, on the evening of August 23, 1989. Sixteen-year-old Hawkins had come to Bensonhurst with three friends to look at a used car when they were attacked by the hostile mob, whose members mistakenly believed that Hawkins was dating a neighborhood girl who was white. The incident shocked New York and the country, unleashed a torrent of racial tension in an already divided city and led to televised protests and marches. The growing unrest contributed to the ousting of New York City Mayor Ed Koch in favor of David Dinkins, who became the city’s first – and as of now, only – African-American mayor.

Storm Over Brooklyn, which was conceived by director Muta’Ali, was selected from more than 300 submissions to the initiative, which is open to all African-American documentary filmmakers and any documentary filmmakers interested in exploring nonfiction stories and themes that speak directly to the African-American experience.

"I'm delighted that Yusuf Hawkins, the effect his murder had on the public, and the locked away regret, sorrow, questions and history that those involved have held onto for nearly 30 years, will finally see the light of day in the context of our time," said Muta’Ali. "It's due to the courage of Yusuf's loving family, as well as the visionary talent at HBO, Lightbox and ABFF."

Added Lightbox co-founders Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn: “We are genuinely thrilled that HBO has green lighted Storm over Brooklyn — a powerful, timely film which feels so relevant to today’s audience even though the events it depicts took place 30 years ago."

Storm Over Brooklyn is executive produced by Jeff Friday, Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn. Oscar-winning directors Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin, who directed Lightbox’s Emmy-winning feature documentary about the 1992 Los Angeles riots, LA 92, have also come on board the project as executive producers, as supporters of the initiative.

The second year of Lightbox's and ABFF's multiyear initiative will be open for entries July 18.