John Lewis Documentary From CNN Films in the Works

Film will explore Congressman Lewis’ 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, gun control, healthcare reform and immigration

Last Updated: May 8, 2019 @ 8:01 AM

CNN Films announced on Wednesday that it is developing a documentary about the life and times of Georgia Congressman John Lewis.

The film, for which CNN is partnering with Trilogy Films and Color Farm Media, will use interviews and archival footage to “illustrate how Lewis’ 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, healthcare reform, and immigration has prepared him for today,” CNN said.

“John Lewis is a national treasure whose leadership paved the way for a generation. In much the same way as his life and work has been shaped by great civil rights leaders, Congressman Lewis continues to serve the country, introducing legislation to protect our most fundamental rights,” Dawn Porter, the film’s director and founder of Trilogy Films, said in a statement. “There has never been a more urgent need for the type of moral and compassionate leadership that he embodies.  I am so honored to be directing this documentary for CNN Films, in partnership with AGC Studios, and am excited to show the world how John Lewis continues to make what he calls ‘good trouble.'”

CNN Films is coming off of a successful run of documentaries that includes 2018’s “Three Identical Strangers” and the Oscar-nominated “RBG,” as well as “Apollo 11” earlier this year.

CNN Films will retain North American broadcast rights for the film, while other U.S. rights for the film, including theatrical distribution, are still up for grabs. The film will be co-financed by AGC Studios, which controls international rights that will be sold via its worldwide sales subsidiary, AGC International.

Porter will produce the film alongside Laura Michalchyshyn for Trilogy Films, with Erika Alexander and Ben Arnon of Color Farm Media also producing. Amy Entelis and Courtney Sexton will serve as executive producers for CNN Films, along with Stuart Ford and Rachel Traub for AGC Studios.

Porter started her year of principal photography with Lewis in September 2018, as he began his campaign ahead of the 2018 U.S. midterm elections and continued through the first year of the 116th Congress. Her cameras captured the recent record-setting government shutdown, and will continue to follow the 79-year-old Congressman through 2019.

Her interviews with Lewis will explore his childhood experiences, his inspiring family, and his fateful meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1957. Lewis, whom King nicknamed “the Boy from Troy,” in recognition of Lewis’ preternatural oratory and commitment to social justice, would go on to become one of King’s most trusted contemporaries, and, as the then-chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lewis was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

In addition to her interviews with Lewis and his family, Porter’s primarily cinéma vérité film will include interviews with political leaders, Congressional colleagues and other people who figure prominently in Lewis’ life.

“CNN Films is honored to be a part of telling Rep. John Lewis’ historic life through Dawn’s film,” said Amy Entelis, CNN Worldwide’s executive vice president for talent and content development, and Courtney Sexton, vice president for CNN Films, in a joint statement. “We hope generations to come will learn from Mr. Lewis’ remarkable American story.”

The untitled film marks the third collaboration between CNN Worldwide and producer Laura Michalchyshyn. Their previous collaborations include the CNN series “Chicagoland” and “Death Row Stories,” which is now approaching its fourth season as an HLN Originals Series.

The deal was negotiated by Stacey Wolf, vice president of business affairs, and Kelly MacLanahan, assistant general counsel, for CNN Worldwide on behalf of CNN Films. Victoria Cook of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz represented the filmmakers.