Disney’s National Geographic Documentary Films has announced details on a brand new film, “The Space Race”, which is going to be produced and directed by Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning producer and director Lisa Cortés and award-winning producer and director Diego Hurtado de Mendoza.
“The Space Race” is a feature film that will uncover the little-known stories of the first Black pilots, engineers and scientists to become astronauts. Frank Marshall and Tony Rosenthal of The Kennedy/Marshall Company are set to executive produce, along with Carolyn Bernstein of National Geographic Documentary Films and Leland Melvin. The project will be produced by Kennedy/Marshall’s Alexandra Bowen and Aly Parker, Diamond Docs’ Mark Monroe and independent producer Keero Birla. Monroe will also serve as the film’s writer.
“The Space Race” weaves together the stories of Black astronauts seeking to break the bonds of social injustice to reach for the stars, including Guion Bluford, Ed Dwight and Charles Bolden among many others. Addressing the racial injustice within NASA across several decades, the film will follow these pioneers who fought to overcome not just the obstacles of their astronaut training but also the challenges that stemmed from the racial prejudice and discrimination present at the time. “The Space Race” will highlight how their perseverance challenged the definition of “the right stuff,” even when their stories were omitted from the history books.
Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice president of Documentary Films for National Geographic, said in a statement:
“It has been a pleasure to work with co-directors Lisa Cortés and Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, along with our friends at Kennedy/Marshall, to tell the inspiring, courageous stories of pioneering Black astronauts. We feel honored to give these trailblazers center stage in the narrative around U.S. space exploration.”
A film about connectivity, community, mentorship and the importance of trailblazers, “The Space Race” will be available exclusively on National Geographic Channels and Disney+. A release date has not been set.
Directors Cortés and Hurtado de Mendoza, said in a statement:
“The exploration of space has always been a place of hope and inspiration. From space, we look out into the Universe and learn about our place in it, but we also look back at Earth and learn about ourselves. A select group of astronauts are the only human beings who’ve ever seen all of humanity from this unique point of view — with its infinite possibilities and its debilitating flaws. We couldn’t have found a more supportive partner than National Geographic Documentary Films to tell the story of these brave pioneers in space exploration who opened the space program to people of color.”
Award-winning director and producer Lisa Cortés generates bold, explosive art that gives voice to the silenced and shunned. From helping launch the revolutionary artists RUN-D.M.C. and the Beastie Boys to executive producing the Academy Award-winning film “Precious,” she sparks cultural change through works of unrivaled excellence. Cortés’ directorial debut, “Little Richard: I Am Everything,” had its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Also premiering at Sundance was “Invisible Beauty,” the documentary about Black fashion industry pioneer Bethann Hardison, which she produced. Cortés also co-directed “All In: The Fight for Democracy,” tracing the violent history of the voting rights struggle. Emmy-winning HBO documentary “The Apollo” (2019), which Cortés produced, explores African American cultural and political history through the story of the legendary Apollo Theater. The film “Precious,” which she executive produced, received the Sundance Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize for best drama. It was nominated for six Academy Awards and won two.
Diego Hurtado de Mendoza is an award-winning producer and director known for pairing historically relevant issues with a contemporary visual language that invites new audiences to revisit their past. His previous documentary films have covered the independence of Kosovo, the relationship between filmmaking and war in Lebanon and, most recently, the Cuban revolution.
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