Disney’s National Geographic has announced details on the upcoming documentary film, “The Mission”, which is going to debut in US cinemas on October 13th 2023 and in the UK and Ireland on November 17th 2023. No Disney+ release details have been announced.
In 2018, a shocking event made headlines around the world: a young American missionary, John Chau, was killed by arrows while attempting to contact one of the world’s most isolated Indigenous peoples on remote North Sentinel Island. From Emmy-winning directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss (“Boys State”) with Oscar-winning producer Simon Chinn and Emmy-winning producer Jonathan Chinn of Lightbox, comes National Geographic Documentary Films’ “The Mission”, which uncovers the gripping story beyond the headlines. Through exclusive interviews and with unprecedented access to Chau’s secret plans, personal diaries, and video archives, “The Mission” examines the mythology of exploration that inspired him, the evangelical community that supported his quest, and reveals his own father’s heartbreak as Chau’s youthful thirst for adventure became a fatal obsession.
Check out “The Mission” trailer below:
“The Mission” will have its world premiere at the 50th edition of the Telluride Film Festival on Thursday, 31st August 2023. In the lead-up to its theatrical debut, the film will also screen at numerous festivals around the world, including the BFI London Film Festival.
The film will open in select North American theatres beginning Friday, 13th October 2023, in New York and Toronto, with a continued rollout to theatres in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, Vancouver, Portland and other cities across the country through November. It will debut in U.K. and Irish theatres on Friday, 17th November 2023. Altitude Film Sales will handle international rights to the film and will launch sales at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The directors said in a statement:
“Looking closely at John Chau’s death, we found a complicated, layered story, equal parts adventure and tragedy. At its core, it’s an intimate drama, an emotional dialogue between father and son. But it also raises questions for all of us about the great historical forces that have shaped our world, about the implications of faith and the legacy of the so-called Age of Discovery. It’s a story worthy of the big screen, and one that echoes the epic tales that inspired John and finally doomed him.”
Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice president of Documentary Films for National Geographic said in a statement:
“The Mission” contains multitudes, thanks to Amanda and Jesse’s artful, empathic and nuanced storytelling. It is a gripping murder mystery that examines the moral and ethical implications of John Chau’s story to probe deeply into the complicated history of colonialism and global exploration. We are thrilled to collaborate once again with our friends at Lightbox on this captivating and provocative film.”
Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn, co-founders of Lightbox, added:
“We were both moved and troubled by the news of John Chau’s untimely death in the Andaman Islands in 2018 and our partners at National Geographic immediately saw the potential that we saw in his story for a feature documentary. The film that Jesse and Amanda have made has used that story as a springboard for a thought-provoking and multilayered narrative that also asks difficult questions about our fraught relationship with Indigenous people, and we are hugely excited to be returning to Telluride to premiere the film.”
McBaine and Moss worked patiently for years to gain the cooperation of John’s friends, teachers and advisors. Several are featured in the film, including Levi Davis, who formed an “accountability group” with John when they were fellow students at Vancouver Christian High School; Adam Goodheart, historian; and Dan Everett, professor of linguistics and a former missionary who shares his firsthand experiences of the enduring myths of colonial evangelism.
John’s father, Patrick Chau, is given voice via excerpts from written statements reckoning with John’s faith, his death and Patrick’s own anguished failures as a parent to prevent John from undertaking the “foolhardy mission.” Meanwhile, John’s personal diary, including a 13-page entry of his last days, social media and blog posts, letters he shared with supporters, and a secret 26-page “master plan” he wrote outlining his understanding of the Sentinelese and plans for converting them, serve as a window into his innermost thoughts right up until his final days.
To visualize John’s master plan, which outlined in detail his strategy to reach the island and convert the Sentinelese, filmmakers drew on the same art form that inspired him — comics. Hand-drawn animation brings to life key moments in the story, in the vein of “Tintin” and “Through Gates of Splendor,” a 1970s Christian comic book about the five young American missionaries killed by the Huaorani people in Ecuador in 1956.
“The Mission” is co-produced by Vanessa Tovell and Carolyn Sperry Lewis, edited by Aaron Wickenden (ACE), and executive produced by Doug Bock Clark with animation from Jason Carpenter and Holly Stone and music by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans. Thorsten Thielow serves as director of photography. Carolyn Bernstein serves as executive producer for National Geographic Documentary Films.
Are you looking forward to watching “The Mission”? Let us know on social media!
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.