"WITNESS," A GROUNDBREAKING SERIES OF FOUR DOCUMENTARIES FROM MICHAEL MANN AND DAVID FRANKHAM, IMMERSES US IN CONFLICT ZONES WITH THE CURRENT GENERATION OF WAR PHOTOGRAPHERS WHEN IT DEBUTS NOV. 5, EXCLUSIVELY ON HBO
Drug trafficking, poverty, gang violence, corruption and ethnic warfare have created some of the most dangerous hot spots on Earth. WITNESS follows our current generation of photojournalists into these conflict zones in Mexico, Libya, Brazil and South Sudan. In the four-part series, war photographers carry usinto the heart of the human drama of the people in the action on the ground. We see what compels the photojournalist and experience why, when everyone elseseeks cover, the photojournalist stands and moves closer.
Executive produced by writer-director Michael Mann ("The Insider," "Ali," "Heat," HBO's "Luck") and acclaimed commercial and documentary director David Frankham, WITNESS is not a historical summary or analysis. It does not present the sides of an issue from an objective perspective. WITNESS is the exact opposite. It is personal experience. It is an immersion into the human drama on the ground of peoplecaught in the thick of it. WITNESS dives into the anomalies, the humor, thetragedy, the chaos, the exultation. It struggles to capture - as does the photographer - a small piece of the truth in a moment.
"I share an admiration for the art and the truth-telling of photography from conflict zones with David Frankham," says Mann. "Sometimes, in a single frame in the midst of chaos and danger, an indescribable, small piece of truth is captured. As journalists, as artists, they're drawn in while everyone else is running in the other direction. They stand as witness."
Says Frankham, "WITNESS was born out of our belief that by following the experiences and struggles of war photographers who risk their lives in an attempt to reveal the truth, we would capture an honest, ground-level view of conflicts around the world, and the people affected, in a way that had not been seen before."
In WITNESS: JUAREZ, Eros Hoagland brings us into Juarez, Mexico, the murder capital of the western hemisphere. In WITNESS: LIBYA, Michael Christopher Brown, wounded in a mortar assault in 2011 that killed two other war photographers, his friends Tim Hetherington (who co-directed the Academy Award(R)-nominated "Restrepo") and Chris Hondros, returns to Misrata in current-day Libya. In WITNESS: SOUTH SUDAN, Veronique de Viguerie - the only woman to have embedded with the Taliban - travels into the bush with a local militia (the "Arrow Boys"), ill-armed with bows and arrows and antique shotguns, to hunt mass murderer Joseph Kony. In WITNESS:RIO, Eros Hoagland probes Rio de Janeiro's hilltop redoubts, the City of God and Rocinha favelas controlled by the Red Command and Amigo de Amigo gangs, to investigate the pacification, the "social cleansing" in advance of the arrival of the World Cup and Summer Olympics in the city.
And in WITNESS, we experience our photographers' struggle as journalists and as artists as they risk their lives to capture a small piece of a larger truth. We will understand why, when every one else is running away, they stand as witness.
The four films in the series are:
Debut: MONDAY, NOV. 5 (9:00-9:30 p.m. ET/PT)
Other HBO playdates: Nov. 5 (2:50 a.m.), 8 (12:05 a.m., 5:25 a.m.), 10 (12:15 p.m.), 18 (11:30 a.m.) and 22 (10:45 p.m.)
HBO2 playdates: Nov. 7 (8:00 p.m.), 9 (2:10 p.m.) and 24 (1:10 p.m.)
Pro journalist Eros Hoagland has worked in conflict zones in Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti, but his focus, here, is Juarez, Mexico, the murder capital of the world. Drug violence in Juarez has left 19,000 dead, and the drugs are still flowing north. Eros began work as a photojournalist in 1993, covering the aftermath of El Salvador's civil war. He has since worked in Iraq, Haiti, Afghanistan and Columbia. His father, Newsweek photographer John Hoagland, was killed in El Salvador when Eros was a boy. Eros looks for an emotional narrative within the subjects. In a grim locale a man is shot in his car and dies. It is Hoagland's capture of the incongruity of the quietness of death and the waiting of the police that conveys the absurdity of accident and the deepest of feelings. Eros' search is always for the emotional narrative.
Directed by David Frankham; produced by Ike Martin, Alison Kunzman and Youree Henley.
Debut: MONDAY, NOV. 12 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT)
Other HBO playdates: Nov. 12 (3:50 a.m.), 15 (4:00 p.m.), 17 (11:00 a.m.), 20 (11:00 a.m., midnight) and 25 (2:00 p.m.)
HBO2 playdate: Nov. 14 (8:00 p.m.)
Michael Christopher Brown has been to Libya five times during the conflicts that brought down Gaddafi's rule. Now, the revolution is over, but the chaos has only begun; the current situation in Libya is even more complicated. Internecine fighting continues, not unexpectedly. After 42 years of Gaddafi and no democratic tradition, Libya was not going to magically turn into Connecticut. On an earlier trip, in April 2011, Brown was in Misrata with veteran photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros. He remembers having an uneasy feeling, saying, "The city was like a shooting gallery that day." Then a mortar round struck nearby, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed, and Brown was wounded. In WITNESS: LIBYA, Brown is in the extreme moments of present-day chaos and reliving the loss of his friends and mentors.
Directed by Abdallah Omeish; produced by Julie Herrin and Josiah Hooper.
WITNESS: SOUTH SUDAN
Debut: MONDAY, NOV. 19 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT)
Other HBO playdates: Nov. 19 (4:50 a.m.), 21 (noon), 24 (2:30 p.m.) and 27 (4:00 p.m., 12:10 a.m.), and Dec. 2(4:15 p.m.) and 10 (9:00 a.m.)
HBO2 playdate: Nov. 21 (8:00 p.m.)
In South Sudan, thousands have been killed, abducted or displaced by Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. French photojournalist Veronique de Viguerie travels with the Arrow Boys, an unpaid militia of farmers who took up arms to protect their families from the LRA. For the last two decades, Joseph Kony has led a campaign of unfathomable brutality in an attempt to impose his command as the law of the land. His forces havekidnapped and forced into sexual or military slavery an estimated 60,000 children and driven two million of Uganda's people from their homes. The pregnant de Viguerie treks through wilderness with the Arrow Boys, as well as with the Ugandan Army. On a night patrol she is asked if she ever gets scared. She replies, "Sometimes... but here there is no time."
Directed by David Frankham; produced by Julie Herrin and Josiah Hooper.
Debut: MONDAY, NOV. 26 (9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT)
Other HBO playdates: Nov. 26 (5:00 a.m.) and 30 (11:00 a.m.), and Dec. 1 (1:00 p.m.), 6 (12:30 p.m., 2:15 a.m.), 9 (9:30 a.m.) and 11 (5:00 p.m., 12:30 a.m.)
HBO2 playdate: Nov. 28 (8:00 p.m.)
Though Rio de Janeiro will host the Summer Olympics in 2016, the city currently remains crippled by a war raging between police and powerful drug gangs. Over 2,000 Brazilian military have taken to the streets in a largest offensive in decades. They are taking on the Red Command and Amigos de Amigos, two powerful gangs, in an attempt to regain control of the city's hilltop favelas before the world's eyes focus on Brazil as it hosts the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. The powerful drug gangs have fought back with a series of urban terror attacks on cars, buses and police stations. Several journalists have been murdered. Photographer Eros Hoagland is one of only a few willing to venture into the dangerous favelaslike Mangueira, which overlooks the Olympic stadium. Mysteries are revealed: In some areas of "pacification," Red Command have been warned in advance and have already left for more remote parts. Rio's murder rate is said to be falling, yet missing persons cases are dramatically on the rise. "Is this 'social cleansing'?," Hoagland asks. "Where are the bodies?" As he journeys deeper into the dangerous streets he finds some of the answers - disturbing images of bodies in alleys, buried in wells or burned beyond recognition.
Directed by David Frankham; produced by Julie Herrin and Josiah Hooper.
WITNESS is a Blue Light Media/Little Puppet Production. Executive producers are Michael Mann and David Frankham. It features photojournalists Eros Hoagland, Michael Christopher Brown and Veronique de Viguerie. Cinematographer is Jared Moosey and composer is Antonio Pinto. An HBO Documentary Films presentation.