WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--National Geographic Documentary Films announced that Academy Award®-nominated and Emmy-winning producer and director Lisa Cortés and award-winning producer and director Diego Hurtado de Mendoza will direct and produce THE SPACE RACE, 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.
“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,” said Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice president of Documentary Films for National Geographic. “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.
“The exploration of space has always been a place of hope and inspiration,” said directors Cortés and Hurtado de Mendoza. “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.
National Geographic Documentary Films previously released the Academy Award, BAFTA and seven-time Emmy Award-winning film “Free Solo” and the Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning film “The Cave.” In 2022, they released Oscar and BAFTA nominated “Fire of Love,” two-time Sundance Award-winner “The Territory,” critically acclaimed “Retrograde” as well as the short film “The Flagmakers,” all of which were shortlisted for a 2023 Academy Award. In 2021, they released BAFTA nominees “The Rescue” and “Becoming Cousteau,” and three-time Emmy Award winner “The First Wave.” Other critically acclaimed films under the banner include “Fauci”; “Torn”; Emmy-nominated “We Feed People” and “Rebuilding Paradise” from Ron Howard; Sundance Audience Award winners “Science Fair” and “Sea of Shadows”; Emmy winners “LA 92” and “Jane,” both of which were included in the top 15 documentaries considered for an Academy Award in 2017; and Dupont Award winner “Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of Isis.”
About National Geographic Documentary Films
National Geographic Documentary Films is committed to bringing the world premium, feature documentaries that cover timely, provocative and globally relevant stories from the very best documentary filmmakers in the world. National Geographic Documentary Films is part of a joint venture between The Walt Disney Company and the National Geographic Society. Our diverse films reach millions worldwide across National Geographic channels (National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD, Nat Geo MUNDO) and direct-to-consumer platforms Disney+ and Hulu. Furthering knowledge and understanding of our world has been the core purpose of National Geographic for 135 years, and now we are committed to going deeper, pushing boundaries, going further for our consumers … and reaching millions of people around the world in 172 countries and 43 languages every month as we do it. Recent films include the Academy Award ® and BAFTA nominated “Fire of Love,” three-time Emmy Award winner “The First Wave,” two-time Sundance award-winner “The Territory,” BAFTA nominees “The Rescue” and “Becoming Cousteau”, and Academy Award ® and BAFTA winner “Free Solo.” For more information visit films.nationalgeographic.com, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
About The Kennedy/Marshall Company
Established in 1991 by veteran producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall, The Kennedy/Marshall Company is behind award-winning films “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Lincoln,” and “Sully” as well as blockbuster franchises “Jurassic World” and “Jason Bourne” to name a few. The Documentary Division was created to tell non-fiction stories with the same passion and expertise. Past projects include “Sinatra: All or Nothing At All” (HBO), “The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash (YouTube), Emmy-nominated docuseries “Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time (MGM+), and “The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (HBO), and most recently “Mr. A & Mr. M: The Story of A&M Records” (MGM+), Grammy-winning “Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story” (Sony Pictures Classics), “Carole King & James Taylor: Just Call Out My Name (CNN), and “The Redeem Team” (Netflix).