April 15, 2024

Media Decoder: CNN Created Documentary Unit

CNN will broadcast Girl Rising, made in part in Haiti.Martha AdamsCNN will broadcast “Girl Rising,” made in part in Haiti.

LOS ANGELES — CNN, laboring to make itself more relevant, has decided that part of the answer involves movies — at least the nonfiction kind — and on Monday plans to announce the creation of CNN Films.

Cut to CNN executives shopping at Sundance? “We very well might,” said Mark Whitaker, executive vice president and managing editor of CNN Worldwide. Mr. Whitaker also envisions CNN working with a distributor for theatrical releases.

But first, baby steps. CNN plans to broadcast premieres of documentaries in prime time — about one every three months, Mr. Whitaker said — and to surround them with special editions of CNN programs that will discuss topics of the films. Examples of such related programming include round-table discussions and behind-the-scenes footage. Related programming will be posted on the Web.

CNN International will also show the films, which is important to documentarians, who struggle to be seen overseas.

CNN has already acquired one documentary, “Girl Rising,” an ardent look at the importance of improving education for girls in countries like Egypt and Cambodia. The film is directed by Richard E. Robbins, an Oscar nominee for “Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience.” “It’s exciting in part because I feel like it freed me from the burden of including certain statistics,” he said. “I feel like CNN is going to be able to provide so much context.”

“Girl Rising,” about 100 minutes long, features “vocal performances” from Meryl Streep and Selena Gomez. CNN Films has also signed development deals with Andrew Rossi (“Page One: Inside The New York Times”) and Alex Gibney, an Oscar winner for “Taxi to the Dark Side.” Mr. Gibney called it “a great opportunity for creative freedom and wide distribution” in a statement.

Mr. Robbins predicted other documentary directors would be thrilled to have a new television outlet but acknowledged some doubt, adding they are “skeptical of the bastions of power.”

Mr. Whitaker noted that CNN had had success with homegrown documentaries, notably Soledad O’Brien’s “In America” series. “But this is part of a larger effort to reach out to the independent world,” he said, for programming with more point of view and personality.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/08/cnn-creates-documentary-unit/?partner=rss&emc=rss