HBO Lands ‘Jim’ Documentary About Journalist Murdered by ISIS

Brian Oakes’ powerful documentary chronicles the life, death and legacy of James Foley, who was killed in 2014

Jim the James Foley story
Photo Credit: Steven Senne

HBO Documentary Films has acquired the U.S. TV rights to Brian Oakes’ powerful documentary “Jim: The James Foley Story,” which chronicles the life, death and legacy of journalist James Foley, who was murdered by ISIS in 2014, the cable network announced Tuesday.

The film will have its world premiere in the U.S. Documentary Competition of the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, and will debut Saturday, Feb. 6 on HBO.

Directed by Oakes, the film was produced by Eva Lipman, George Kunhardt and Teddy Kunhardt, and executive produced by Peter Kunhardt.

On Thanksgiving Day 2012, American photojournalist James “Jim” Foley was kidnapped in Syria and went missing for two years before the infamous video of his public execution sent shockwaves and introduced much of the world to ISIS.

Foley’s close childhood friend, Brian Oakes, tells the story of his life through intimate interviews with his family, friends and fellow journalists — while fellow hostages reveal never-before-heard details of his captivity with a chilling immediacy that builds suspense.

“James Foley is America’s son,” said Sheila Nevins, president of HBO Documentary Films. “If this story doesn’t move you, nothing can.”

“I made this film to carry on the stories that Jim needed us to know,” said Oakes. “It’s important that we understand the significant role of today’s conflict journalists and why they risk their lives to tell the world how bad it can be.”

“This film is the work of a talented team of young filmmakers,” added executive producer Peter Kunhardt. “I am very proud of it, and pleased that HBO is once again our partner.”

The film will include the original song “The Empty Chair,” by Oscar-nominated artists J. Ralph and Sting.

The deal was negotiated with HBO by Cinetic Media on behalf of Kunhardt Films, the award-winning production company that produced the documentary. “Jim: The James Foley Story” marks the tenth collaboration between HBO and Kunhardt Films, following documentaries such as “Nixon by Nixon: In His Own Words,” “Teddy: In His Own Words” and “Gloria: In Her Own Words.”

Brooklyn-based Oakes began his career in film as a designer creating unique visual solutions for film, television, interactive and environmental spaces. He started by designing graphics for the 2006 Sundance hit “Wordplay,” about New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz, before moving on to such films as “I.O.U.S.A.,” “Freakonomics” and most recently, “Inequality for All.” He first worked with Kunhardt films designing the graphics for “African American Lives,” and after several projects, he eventually co-directed “Living with Lincoln” with Peter Kunhardt, which aired on HBO in 2015. “Jim: The James Foley Story” is the first film he has directed solo.