HBO Documentary Films started production on a new documentary series reexamining the Atlanta Child Murders of the late-1970s and early-1980s.
Between 1979 and 1981, approximately 30 African-American children, aged 7 to 17, most of them boys, were kidnapped and murdered in Atlanta. The disappearances happened on a frighteningly regular basis. The bodies were discovered weeks and sometimes months later. They were found tossed behind dumpster, under bridges, or in rivers. Parents stopped letting their kids play outside. Some stopped sending them to school. The city of Atlanta imposed a curfew. Georgia TV broadcast stations began broadcasting a eerie, nightly advisory: “It’s 10 p.m., do you know where your children are?”
As-yet-untitled, the series, which HBO is producing alongside Documentary Films, Show of Force, Roc Nation and Get Lifted Film Co., will offer a never-before-seen look at the murders “from the initial disappearance and discovery of two murdered teenage boys and the fear that gripped the city, to the prosecution and indictment of 23-year-old Atlanta native Wayne Williams and the rush to officially shut down the case,” according to the press statement.
Williams was convicted for two of the adult murders and sentenced to two consecutive life terms. Angry and frightened parents argued the investigation was closed after the trial under political pressure to stop the headlines.
The series will be directed by Show of Force, which includes Joshua Bennett, Maro Chermayeff and Jeff Dupre, who won an Emmy and a Peabody HBO’s Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present; Sam Pollard, who won an Emmy for When the Levees Broke was nominated for an Oscar for HBO’s 4 Little Girls. The team was granted unprecedented access, allowing the documentary series to bring new evidence to light, and provide “a powerful understanding of one of America’s darkest chapters,” according to the press statement.
The documentary series will examine the original trial materials and court documents, but also look at the “racial tensions and cultural clashes that brought Atlanta to a boiling point and caught the nation in a moment of transition.”
Forty years after the murders began, evidence was questioned. On March 21, 2019, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the Atlanta Police Department would re-test 22 murders deemed cold cases since 1981. After decades of pressure from the community, the Atlanta Mayor demanded the evidence be retested using the latest DNA technology.
The series will reveal a community which “desperately sought justice from the city and law enforcement officials during the crisis and found it heartbreakingly lacking, the series features fresh insights and interviews with key figures and experts, including the victims’ families, law enforcement officials, Williams’ defense attorney and Williams himself,” according to the press statement.
Worth noting is that Mindhunter Season 2 is set to cover the Atlanta Child Murders as well.
The Atlanta Child Murders documentary series release date has not yet been announced.
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Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.