HBO and PBS are well known for their documentary programming, but new networks have been getting into the action with their own nonfiction plans, among them Showtime (who launched doc strand Sho Closeup with “The World According To Dick Cheney” in March) and CNN, who today announced its doc schedule for the remainder of the year, one that includes recent and provocative picks like Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s killer whales in captivity film “Blackfish” and Robert Stone’s nuclear power-centric “Pandora’s Promise.” The series will kick off with “Our Nixon,” which airs tomorrow, actually ahead of its August 30th theatrical release from Cinedigm. Here’s the list of films, descriptions courtesy of CNN:
OUR NIXON (Thursday, August 1 at 9:00pm)
Throughout Richard Nixon’s presidency, three top White House aides earnestly documented their experiences with Super 8 cameras. This unique and personal visual record, created by H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and Dwight Chapin, was seized by the FBI during the Watergate investigations, then filed away and forgotten for almost 40 years. Co-produced by Penny Lane and Brian Frye, OUR NIXON is an all-archival documentary presenting those home movies for the first time – along with other found footage and secretly recorded audiotapes – creating an intimate and complex portrait of the Nixon presidency as never seen before.
THE FLAG (Thursday, September 5 at 9:00pm)
Co-directed by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein, THE FLAG examines one of the great untold stories of the September 11th attacks: what happened to the flag raised on the site of the World Trade Center by three firemen, immortalized in one of the most iconic photographs of that day? The filmmakers unravel the mystery of the whereabouts of the flag and, along the way, trace its history and explore the meaning of this flag’s image in the aftermath of that horrible event. THE FLAG commemorates American resilience during a moment seared into the American consciousness.
BLACKFISH (Thursday, October 24 at 9:00pm)
BLACKFISH traces the 39-year history of killer whales in captivity leading up to a 2010 incident in which an experienced Sea World trainer was killed by the 12,000-pound orca, Tilikum. Tilikum had previously been associated with the deaths of two other trainers. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite chillingly demonstrates that this incident of violence is hardly isolated, while exploring the extraordinary nature of orcas, thought to be one of the most intelligent species in the animal kingdom. The film is a story about the consequences of captivity for these animals that have thrilled millions in performances, but lead a much darker existence when the show is over.
PANDORA’S PROMISE (Thursday, November 7 at 9:00pm)
The atomic bomb and accidents at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima bring to mind apocalyptic disasters, but the science and experience since suggest that long-held fears about nuclear power may be wrong. Academy Award®-nominated director Robert Stone tells the intensely personal stories of environmentalists and energy experts who have undergone profound conversions from being passionately against, to strongly favoring, nuclear energy – putting their careers and reputations on the line in the process. Through the voices of well-respected environmental thinkers, Stone reveals a rift within the movement as they describe their individual journeys of “defection,” which may ultimately change the terms of the debate over how to manage the world’s growing energy needs.
UNREAL DREAM (Thursday, December 5 at 9:00pm)
Directed by Al Reinert, UNREAL DREAM portrays the harrowing true tale of Michael Morton. Wrongly convicted of the brutal murder of his young wife, Morton spends a quarter century in the Texas prison system, cut off from his only child, who believed him to be guilty of destroying their family. In collaboration with the Innocence Project, Morton proves his innocence through the use of DNA testing and in the process brings to bear the plight of unjust imprisonments in the United States.