Julia Roberts, Forest Whitaker back original docs for Oprah’s new network

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Julia Roberts, Forest Whitaker, Goldie Hawn, Gabriel Byrne and Mariel Hemingway have agreed to participate in original, two-hour documentaries for OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, it was announced today.

The films will be presented as part of OWN’s monthly documentary film club, along with the original acquisitions, “Life 2.0” and “Sons of Perdition.” The documentary club will spotlight these films and the previously announced “Family Affair,” which focuses on cinematic documentaries that encourage emerging creative voices to bring their stories to a mainstream television audience on OWN.

“All of these documentaries fundamentally explore human interaction, relationships and emotions,” said Lisa Erspamer, chief creative officer for OWN. “We’re excited to provide viewers with new perspectives and new ways of looking at core themes that shape and affect their lives.”

Presented and executive produced by Julia Roberts’ Red Om Films, “Extraordinary Moms” explores the power of mothers by featuring courageous women who share a powerful connection: the love they have for their children combined with a fierce desire to protect the future of all children. The film is produced by Creative Visions Productions and Red Om Films, with executive producers Kathy Eldon, Lisa Gillan and Philip Rose and producers Jacoba Atlas and Kyra Thompson.

Narrated and executive produced by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, “One Last Shot” takes viewers inside Louisiana’s maximum security prison at Angola, where the average sentence is more than 90 years. The prisoners within its walls are the worst of the worst – rapists, kidnappers and murderers. With prison sentences so long, 85 percent will never again live in the outside world. Instead, they will grow old and die in Angola. “Shot” documents an extraordinary hospice program where hardened criminals care for their dying fellow inmates. In doing so, they embark on a journey that may end in personal rehabilitation. “One last shot reveals the humanity that exists inside each and every one of us,” said Whitaker. “In the Angola prison’s hospice, we meet inmates who decide to take an opportunity for redemption, reminding us of the connection that exists between each and every human being.”

Goldie Hawn executive produces, hosts and narrates “Searching for Happiness,” a documentary that examines the age-old quest for true happiness. Th film shines a light on the revolutionary field of positive psychology, which proves we have the power within us to choose happiness. “My curiosity on the subject of happiness and optimism started in adolescence, when the main goal in my life was to be and stay happy,” said Hawn. “After many years of exploring positive psychology, neuroscience and human behavior, I am thrilled to share valuable factual information from experts around the world, as well as my own personal experiences, to give our audience tools to live happier lives.”

Executive producers Gabriel Byrne and Leora Rosenberg, producer/director Steven Cantor and Stick Figure Productions present “Tent City,” a documentary exploring homelessness in Nashville, Tenn. With the economic recession, a growing number of people are finding themselves in a position they never imagined, homeless. “Tent City” explores a community of nearly 100 homeless individuals who live under a downtown bridge. The group is self-sustained and self-governed. They work to stay together after a devastating flood destroys their land and forces them to evacuate. As a result of the disaster, for the first time in Nashville history, the municipally run Homeless Commission has opened one seat on its council to a resident of Tent City. This opportunity will allow the winning Tent City individual the chance to spearhead the search for a new location. The documentary will follow the four candidates as they vie for election and the process of moving the camp and keeping the community together. “Shelter and home are the most basic human and fundamental human rights, yet increasingly in one of the world’s wealthiest societies, more and more of us are losing our homes. How we address this social epidemic may very well determine our future. This isn’t an abstract concept but a reality millions of Americans confront every day. Our sons, our daughters, our fathers and mothers are the homeless,” says executive producer Gabriel Byrne.

“Seven Suicides” is an original documentary following Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of Ernest Hemingway, as she explores the legacy of suicide and depression in one of America’s foremost literary families. She reflects on her family history and the path she has built to avoid the same troubling depression suffered by so many of her relatives. Mariel lost her sister Margaux to suicide, and her other sister, Muffet, has moved in and out of mental institutions since the age of 16. Mariel revisits painful moments from her past, and takes a difficult journey to reconnect with her one surviving sister, Muffet.

A joint venture between Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications, OWN: THE OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK is a multiplatform media company designed to entertain, inform and inspire people to live their best lives. OWN will debut on Jan. 1, 2011, in approximately 80 million homes, on what is currently the Discovery Health Channel. For more information, visit www.oprah.com/own.

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