LOS ANGELES–HBO has confirmed a compelling array of thought-provoking documentaries for the second half of 2015, from an unprecedented look behind the scenes of the world’s most famous ballet company in Bolshoi Babylon, to an intimate portrait of foreign-policy legend Richard Holbrooke in The Diplomat, to the racially charged story of a fight for justice in the Sundance award winner “3 1/2 Minutes,” “Ten Bullets.”
Upcoming HBO documentaries include (in chronological order):
TOE TAG PAROLE: TO LIVE AND DIE ON YARD A (debuting Aug. 3) explores the reality of “the other death penalty.” The film visits Yard A at California State Prison, a dedicated yard for men serving life sentences that was created to break the code of violence dominating prison life. The only one of its kind in the United States, this experimental prison yard is free of violence, racial tensions, gang activity and illegal drug and alcohol use. Directed by Academy Award winners Alan and Susan Raymond (HBO’s “I Am A Promise: The Children of Stanton Elementary School”).
TASHI AND THE MONK (Aug. 17) visits a unique community in the Himalayas that rescues orphaned and neglected children. Founded by former Buddhist monk Lobsang Phunstok, who trained with the Dalai Lama and whose own dark childhood led him to create this safe haven, Jhamtse Gatsal is home to boys and girls fleeing extreme poverty, who grow up in an environment where they are free to be themselves and dream about their future. Directed by Andrew Hinton and Johnny Burke, the film follows the school’s most recent arrival, Tashi, a feisty five-year old girl. Winner of the Best Short and the Pare Lorentz Award at the International Documentary Association’s (IDA) Documentary Awards.
SAN FRANCISCO 2.0 (Sept. 28) visits a city that has long enjoyed a reputation as the counterculture capitol of America. Now, with the digital gold rush, members of the young tech elite are flocking to the West Coast to make their fortunes, and this influx of new wealth is forcing San Francisco to reinvent itself. How is the tech revolution affecting the heart, soul and pocketbooks of the city? Emmy-nominated director Alexandra Pelosi (HBO’s “Journeys with George”) goes home to find out.
HOW TO DANCE IN OHIO (Oct. 26) spotlights a group of young people on the autism spectrum who spend 12 weeks practicing their social skills in preparation for a spring formal dance. Humorous and poignant, the intimate film focuses onthree girls transitioning into adulthood, going inside their group therapy sessions, relationships with their families and private thoughts as they struggle to understand and navigate the social rules and the universally relatable feelings of suspense, trepidation and excitement that accompany a prom and first date. Directed by Alexandra Shiva.
THE DIPLOMAT (Nov. 2) chronicles the political and personal life of the late Richard Holbrooke, a larger-than-life ambassador whose career spanned 50 years of American foreign policy, ranging from Vietnam, to Bosnia and Kosovo, to Afghanistan. Directed by his son, David Holbrooke (HBO’s “Hard as Nails”), the film shows how he grapples with Richard Holbrooke’s public and private personas, creating a delicate portrait of fatherhood, ambition and the force required to effect lasting change in the world. The documentary features interviews with such notables as Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, Al Gore, Diane Sawyer and Samantha Power, among others.
3 1/2 MINUTES, TEN BULLETS (Nov. 23) probes the case of Jordan Davis, a black teenager, and Michael Dunn, a middle-aged white man, whose angry encounter over loud music outside a convenience store ended in the young man’s death when Dunn shot multiple times into the car where Davis was sitting. Featuring intimate interviews with Davis’ parents, exclusive courtroom footage and recordings of Dunn while in police custody, this powerful film tells the story of the devastating effects of racial bias and the search for justice within the judicial system. Winner of a Special Jury Prize at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, the documentary debuts in conjunction with the third anniversary of Davis’ death. Directed by Marc Silver (“Who Is Dayani Cristal?”).
VERY SEMI-SERIOUS: A PARTIALLY THOROUGH PORTRAIT OF NEW YORKER CARTOONISTS(Dec. 7) is a behind-the-scenes look at the process behind the iconic cartoons atThe New Yorker, the undisputed standard bearer of the single-panel cartoon and a cultural touchstone over the past 90 years.Cartoon editor Bob Mankoff sifts through hundreds of submissions each week to select insightful and humorous work that leaves readers amused, inspired and occasionally irritated. Light-hearted yet poignant, the documentary observes Mankoff as he strives to nurture new talent and represent the magazine’s old guard, while also considering how his industry must evolve to stay relevant. Directed by Leah Wolshock.
BOLSHOI BABYLON (Dec. 14) is an unprecedented look inside Moscow’s prestigious Bolshoi Ballet in the aftermath of the 2013 acid-attack against its creative director, Sergei Filin, that sparked lurid headlines. For the first time, this Russian national treasure is opening its doors to offer exclusive access as it embarks on a new chapter in the months following the incident. Through interviews with artists and company members, the film spotlightsthe dancers’ unparalleled artistic and athletic talents, their abiding fear of injury and the ruthless ambition needed to survive in the world’s most esteemed ballet company. Directed by Nick Read; produced and co-directed by Mark Franchetti; executive produced by Simon Chinn (the Oscar winners “Man on Wire” and “Searching for Sugar Man”) and Maxim Pozdarovkin (HBO’s “Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer”).