Making headway on recent statements that Oprah Winfrey’s new OWN network will be a player in the documentary scene, the fledgling channel announced three pick ups Monday. OWN has acquired rights to Lisa Leeman’s “One Lucky Elephant,” Nimisha Mukerji and Philip Lyall’s “65_Redroses,” and Matthew D. Kallis’ Most Valuable Players. The films will air as part of OWN’s monthly documentary film club, debuting in Spring 2011.
Filmed over a decade, “One Lucky Elephant” follows circus producer David Balding as he struggles to find a nurturing permanent home for Flora, the orphaned baby African elephant he lovingly raised as a “daughter” and made the star of his circus. According to an OWN description of the film, as Flora approaches adulthood, David realizes that she is no longer happy performing and needs to be with other elephants. The road to Floras retirement, however, is a difficult and emotional journey that tests their bond in unexpected ways.
“65_Redroses,” meanwhile, is the story of 23 year-old Eva Markvoort, a Canadian woman suffering from the fatal genetic disease cystic fibrosis and awaiting a double lung transplant. The film captures Markvoort’s unshakeable spirit and determined will to live as she battles her disease and blogs about her experience, using the online identity 65_RedRoses. While sharing her story via the Internet, Markvoort meets two other cystic fibrosis sufferers, neither of whom she can meet in person because of the threat of the possible spread of infection. The three women become one another’s lifelines and sources of support, as their lives and struggles become inextricably linked.
“Most Valuable Players” spotlights the Freddy Awards, a live television event which celebrates high school musical theater in New Jersey and the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. The film follows three theater troupes on their creative journey to the elaborate award ceremony, which is akin to the “Tony Awards” for high school musicals.
“OWN seeks to entertain, inspire and inform,” commented Lisa Erspamer, chief creative officer, OWN in a statement. “What better way to further that mission than to provide a mainstream platform for emerging and established documentary filmmakers to present different stories that move the viewer, and then to encourage a dialogue and exchange of ideas.”
A joint venture between Harpo, Inc. and Discovery Communications, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network is a multi-platform media, that, according to the company, is “designed to entertain, inform, and inspire people to live their best lives.” OWN will debut on January 1, 2011 in approximately 80 million homes on what is currently the Discovery Health Channel. The venture also will include the digital platform, Oprah.com.