Today, in tandem with the historic release of Chelsea Manning from a maximum-security U.S. military prison, Pulse Films CEO Thomas Benski announces the production of XY Chelsea. With exclusive rights to Chelsea Manning's story, global content studio Pulse has had unique access to her team for two years to make the film. Director Tim Travers Hawkins (1000 Voices) will be filming with Chelsea later today as she walks free and begins to tell her story and reveal herself to the world in her journey through life beyond incarceration. The ambitious documentary, co-financed by the British Film Institute (BFI) and First Look Media's Topic & Field of Vision, continues Pulse Films' reputation for creating major cultural works that go beyond the headlines.
Thomas Benski, Julia Nottingham and Lucas Ochoa developed and are producing XY Chelsea for Pulse Films, with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Laura Poitras (Risk, Citizenfour) and Field of Vision's Charlotte Cook serving as executive producers, along with the BFI's Mary Burke and First Look Media's Michael Bloom and Adam Pincus. The film is receiving additional support from Faliro House, Sharon Chang and Blaine Vess and was developed by the BFI, with additional finance from the Sundance Documentary Fund and Catapult Film Fund.
In 2010, Chelsea Manning, former U.S. Army intelligence analyst and trans woman, was arrested and ultimately sentenced to serve 35 years at an all-men's, maximum-security, military prison for convictions related to leaking documents. The documents that she disclosed revealed, among other things, information about the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was by far the longest sentence given to any whistleblower in U.S. history.
Since 2014, filmmaker Tim Travers Hawkins has followed Chelsea Manning's legal team as they fought for Chelsea's release from prison, her necessary medical treatment for gender dysphoria and for the military to recognize her as the woman she is. Following two suicide attempts in 2016, Chelsea and her team tried to save her life with a long-shot request to President Obama for a commutation of her sentence before he left office.
On January 17, 2017, President Obama commuted Chelsea's sentence to time served plus 120 days. After years of legal battles it was an extraordinary moment and a bold act that will go down in history. On May 17th, Chelsea walks free and will reveal herself to the world. XY Chelsea is the journey of her fight for survival and dignity, and her transition from prisoner to a free woman.
Julia Nottingham, Head of Documentary at Pulse Films, said this.
"Chelsea Manning's story is one of the major events of our time, covering a wide range of themes from transgender rights to surveillance to the very nature of core democratic principles. It's an incredibly ambitious film that will be eye-opening. We could not be more excited to be working with Tim Travers Hawkins and Laura Poitras on this project, which perfectly embodies the sort of smart, cinematic documentary Pulse is becoming known for."
Michael Bloom, President of First Look Media, said this.
"From her years of incarceration to her release this week and ultimately, to the new life ahead of her, Chelsea's story is an important one that needs to be told. We're proud to partner with Tim, Laura, Pulse and the BFI on this film and are especially appreciative to Chelsea for sharing her very personal journey."
Said director Tim Travers Hawkins.
"When I first wrote to Chelsea at the military prison in Kansas, she could not be filmed, nor could I communicate with her in any way other than through letters. Regardless, I believed it was imperative to find a creative way to engage with her life and story. Now, with Chelsea emerging from confinement, the journey of this film has reached its most historic and exciting moment."
Mary Burke, Senior Production and Development Executive, BFI, said this.
"Tim Travers Hawkins is a visionary British artist and filmmaker, whose power to find the very heart of a human story amidst faceless towers of control, makes us very proud to back his debut feature documentary to ensure Chelsea's story rings out loudly across the world."
Josh Braun from Submarine will launch worldwide sales at Cannes. Previously, Submarine handled the sales of Poitras' Citizenfour and Risk. British filmmaker Tim Travers Hawkins has worked and studied in Argentina and Colombia as well as attending the world-renowned International Film School (EICTV) in Cuba. He was awarded the Amnesty International 'Human Rights Cinema Award' in Paris for his animated film 1000 Voices about the refugee crisis in the UK, which also won Best Animation at the Krakow Film Festival and was nominated for the British Animation Awards. His short documentary Surpriseville premiered at Hotdocs and was screened at festivals around the world, winning several awards. XY Chelsea is his first feature length film.