MTV Documentary Films has set its first two projects under Sheila Nevins, who as president of HBO Documentary Films won 35 Emmys. The first ones at MTV are: the Davy Rothbart-directed 17 Blocks, a personal film spanning 20 years in the life of an African American family living mere blocks away from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC; and the award-winning Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan-directed short documentary St. Louis Superman, about Representative Bruce Franks Jr., a Ferguson activist and battle rapper who was elected to the overwhelmingly white and Republican Missouri House of Representatives.
MTV Documentary Films will release both titles this fall to qualify for awards consideration. Each can be seen next month at Michael Moore’s Traverse City Film Festival, and each launched at earlier festivals.
Executive produced by Nevins and produced and financed by Big Beach’s Alex Turtletaub, Michael B. Clark and Marc Turtletaub alongside Rachel Deniz and Rothbart, 17 Blocks won Best Documentary Film Editing at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Audience Award and Jury Award for Best Feature Documentary at the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival, Best North American Documentary Feature at Mammoth Lakes Film Festival and Excellence in American Profiles Award at the San Francisco Documentary Festival.
St. Louis Superman (produced by Mundhra, Khan and Poh Si Teng and executive produced by Nevins and Fiona Lawson-Baker) won the jury prize for Best Documentary Short at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the Audience Award for Best Short at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, the Audience Award for Best Short at AFI Docs and the Special Jury Mention at Tribeca Film Festival.
“At the heart of American Democracy, there is an injustice that gnaws at the soul of the have-nots and Davy Rothbart’s 17 Blocks and Smitri Mundhra and Sami Khan’s St. Louis Superman are two films that expose both the injustices and courage of Americans who survive against almost insurmountable odds,” said Nevins. “MTV Documentary Films foray begins with these two impactful films.”
“Sheila Nevins is an absolute legend, and her mission at MTV Documentary Films to tell absorbing, unique, and urgent stories that can make a real difference in the world resonates powerfully with mine,” said Rothbart. “The brave Sanford Family, our filmmaking team and I are enormously honored to be working with Sheila and MTV to share ’17 Blocks’ with the world. It’s been a 20-year journey to make this film, and now, as audiences get to know the Sanfords, a new journey is just beginning.”
“It is an incredible honor to be able to work with Sheila Nevins, the preeminent leader in the documentary space, and the team at MTV Documentary Films to bring Bruce Franks Jr.’s story to audiences across the U.S.,” said directors Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan. “This year has been a truly incredible journey and we know the best is yet to come.”
Sales were negotiated by Bahareh Kamali and Mandana O’Connor on behalf of MTV Documentary Films, Submarine Entertainment for 17 Blocks, and AJE Witness on behalf of St. Louis Superman.