The New Yorker Documentary will focus on short and long-form stories told in innovative ways, and produced by filmmakers centring on topics that define a particular time or place.
The first film in the series is Departing Gesture, directed by Jonathan Napolitano and Brian Bolster. The 11-minute film, which is available now on NewYorker.com, tells the story of Trey Sebrell, a funeral director in Ridgeland, Mississippi, who, facing an environment of societal shame and ignorance, buries the unclaimed bodies of those who have died from causes related to HIV/AIDS.
Other films in the series include David Darg’s Lazarus, on Malawian street musician Lazarus Chigwandali; Amy Bench’s A Line Birds Cannot See, on a young Guatemalan girl who flees violence at home and struggles to be reunited with her mother in Houston; and Sara Joe Wolansky’s The Last Conversation, about the love story between a married couple whose last conversation was accidentally recorded on their answering machine.
The New Yorker Documentary joins a number of non-fiction strands from newspapers and magazine outlets.
The New York Times’ Op-Docs division has been operating for a number of years, with former commissioner Jason Spingarn-Koff ultimately joining Netflix’s original documentary division in 2016, while The Guardian’s documentary effort earned the publication an Academy Award nomination in the documentary short category earlier this year.
The initiative also marks the second major video undertaking for The New Yorker, which was the focus of Amazon Prime Video series The New Yorker Presents – a showcase of the magazine’s poems, animations and comedy pieces developed into 30-minute episodes.
Soo-Jeong Kang, executive producer of video for The New Yorker, said: “Good documentary storytelling leads viewers to confirm some truth, deepening our understanding of who we are. Just like the magazine, The New Yorker’s video team brings you stories that will make you care emotionally, intellectually, and aesthetically, and fill you with wonder.”