By Sahil Patel
Earlier this summer, The New York Times launched “Times Documentaries,” an online video programming initiative devoted to covering interesting social, political, and human-interest stories via original short documentary films. Over the past few months, The Times has produced and released several films on stories ranging from the recovery effort following Hurricane Sandy to an impoverished Ugandan woman’s fight against an advanced stage of breast cancer.
Today, the company is premiering its fourth original documentary film as part of the initiative, “The Trials of Jacob Mach,” which follows a Sudanese refugee’s pursuit of his American Dream — to earn a living as a police officer in Atlanta.
“The Trials of Jacob Mach” tells the story of Jacob Deng Mach, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, the name given to a large group of displaced and/or orphaned young men affected by the Second Sudanese Civil War. Twelve years after Mach earned refugee status in the US, he is training to become a police officer in Atlanta, and in doing so, not only become the first Lost Boy in the US to wear a badge, but also earn enough money to continue providing for himself and his extended family. The 20-minute documentary documents Mach’s training and tests at the Atlanta Police Academy over several grueling months.
Accompanying the documentary film, which was produced and directed by NY Times video journalist Brent McDonald, is a written feature on Mach by Times correspondent Kevin Sack. The feature will be the cover story for this coming Sunday’s issue of New York Times Magazine (it will also be available online here). While films created for the “Times Documentaries” initiative can be tied to an article in the paper or its magazine, it’s not necessarily a requirement. According to a spokesperson for The Times, the company likes to ensure that the short films can stand on their own without needing contextual support from articles.
Justine Simons of The New York Times’ video division served as senior producer for “The Trials of Jacob Mach.” In addition to producing and directing, McDonald also helped edit the film alongside Taige Jensen, who served as lead editor.
Cover image/photo by Nick Ruechel for The New York Times