HBO has come on board a feature documentary about a black American teenager shot to death by a group of white youths in 1989. The premium broadcaster has greenlit Storm Over Brooklyn, directed by Muta’Ali and produced by Lightbox, the U.S./UK firm behind Netflix series Captive.
Storm Over Brooklyn won the inaugural Feature Documentary Initiative, created by Lightbox and the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), as part of a joint initiative to foster diversity in feature docs.
The doc tells the story of Yusuf Hawkins, a black American teenager who was shot and murdered after being trapped by a group of white youths in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, on the evening of August 23, 1989. Sixteen-year- old Hawkins had come to Bensonhurst with three friends to look at a used car when they were attacked by the mob, whose members mistakenly believed that Hawkins was dating a neighbourhood girl who was white. The incident unleashed a torrent of racial tension in New York and led to televised protests and marches and ultimately to David Dinkins beating Ed Koch to become the city’s first African American mayor.
Storm Over Brooklyn is executive produced by Jeff Friday as well as Lightbox founders Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn, who recently made feature doc LA92 and whose Kevin Macdonald-directed Whitney launches next month. It is currently preparing a theatrical doc about Tina Turner to be directed by Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin.
Muta’Ali said: “I’m delighted that Yusuf Hawkins, the effect his murder had on the public, and the locked away regret, sorrow, questions and history that those involved have held onto for nearly 30 years, will finally see the light of day in the context of our time. It’s due to the courage of Yusuf’s loving family, as well as the visionary talent at HBO, Lightbox and ABFF.”
“We are genuinely thrilled that HBO has greenlit Storm over Brooklyn – a powerful, timely film which feels so relevant to today’s audience even though the events it depicts took place 30 years ago,” added Lightbox co-founders Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn. “Muta’Ali is a talented and passionate director who is perfectly placed to bring this highly relevant story to the screen and we are proud to support his vision. We are delighted to be working once again with our friends at HBO Documentary Films whose reputation for high-quality, thought-provoking documentaries make it the perfect home for this project and we’re honoured to be working in partnership with them to nurture and support new, diverse creative talent.”