By Ray Pride

Poitras-Co-Produced Chelsea Manning Doc Launches In Cannes






Cannes, France – May 17, 2017: 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: “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: “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: “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.
About Tim Travers Hawkins

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.
About Pulse Films

Pulse Films is an award-winning, modern-day studio encompassing the development, production, financing and distribution of cross-platform content for audiences worldwide. Pulse Films was founded by Thomas Benski and Marisa Clifford in 2005, and is headquartered in London with outposts in Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Berlin.

Dedicated to creating moments of culture through innovative storytelling, Pulse Films operates under the following divisions: Film, Television, Branded Entertainment, Music and Commercials.

Pulse Films’ recent projects include feature films such as Andrea Arnold’s Cannes Jury Prize winner and BAFTA-nominated American Honey, Sundance Award winners The Witch and All These Sleepless Nights, Kahlil Joseph & Beyonce’s Emmy-nominated Lemonade, and 2017’s Trophy. Pulse’s documentary about Nick Cave, One More Time With Feeling, had its world premiere in September 2016 at the Venice Film Festival. Pulse’s past productions include: 20,000 Days On Earth, starring Nick Cave, Kylie Minogue and Ray Winstone, The Possibilities Are Endless, starring Edwyn Collins and Yasmin Paige (official selection SXSW, BIFA nominee 2014); and Shut Up and Play the Hits (Sundance 2012).

In March 2016, VICE Media acquired a majority stake in Pulse Films.
About The British Film Institute (BFI)

The BFI Film Fund supports first-class British filmmaking from talent and project development, through production, to audience development across exhibition, distribution and international sales. With over £50 million of National Lottery funding to invest each year, the BFI is the UK’s largest public investor in film.

Films supported by the BFI include last year’s Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner and BAFTA-winning I, Daniel Blake directed by Ken Loach and the Jury Prize award-winning and BAFTA-nominated American Honey by filmmaker Andrea Arnold; Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom and Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, the opening and closing galas respectively at the 2016 BFI London Film Festival; Viceroy’s House from Gurinder Chadha, which celebrated its World Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival; and Lady Macbeth directed by William Oldroyd, released on 28 April following its World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and UK premiere at last year’s BFI London Film Festival.

Highly anticipated films backed by the BFI include Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here and Rungano Nyoni’s I Am Not a Witch, both premiering at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in Competition and Directors’ Fortnight respectively; Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country, winner of the Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic at Sundance 2017 and screened in Panorama at Berlin; Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete; Clio Barnard’s Dark River; Andy Serkis’ Breathe; Sophie Fiennes’ Grace Jones – The Musical of My Life; Nick Park’s Early Man; Paddy Considine’s Journeyman; Lucy Cohen’s Fly Away; Michael Pearce’s Beast; Peter Mackie Burns’ Daphne; Thomas Clay’s Fanny Lye Delivr’d; Haifaa Al Mansour’s A Storm in the Stars and Mercedes Grower’s Brakes.

The BFI is the lead organization for film in the UK with the ambition to create a flourishing film environment in which innovation, opportunity and creativity can thrive by connecting audiences to the widest choice of British and World cinema, preserving and restoring the most significant film collection in the world for today and future generations championing emerging and world class filmmakers in the UK, investing in creative, distinctive and entertaining work, promoting British film and talent to the world and growing the next generation of filmmakers and audiences.

About Topic

Topic is the ambitious new storytelling brand and entertainment studio from First Look Media dedicated to supporting creators at the forefront of culture. From Academy Award®-winning films (Spotlight) to critically acclaimed documentaries (Laura Poitras’ Risk), to television, audio and digital, we explore a wide range of subject matter, both fiction and nonfiction. Our approach – challenging, compelling and unconventional – reflects our commitment to discovering and amplifying independent new voices, and supporting established ones. XY Chelsea joins an array of films and documentaries at Topic including My Abandonment, directed by Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone) and starring Ben Foster (Hell or High Water); No Man’s Land, a documentary about the Patriot Movement and directed by David Byars; and Bastard, the feature film directorial debut of Rodrigo Prieto (Silence).

About Field of Vision

Field of Vision is a filmmaker-driven documentary unit that commissions and supports original short-form and feature length nonfiction films about developing and on-going stories around the globe. Recent FOV supported films include Josh Begley’s Best of Luck with the Wall, Yance Ford’s Strong Island, Brian Knappenberger’s Nobody Speak, and Our 100 Days, a series in partnership with Firelight Media.
About Submarine

Submarine, founded in 1998 by twin brothers Josh and Dan Braun, has become one of the leading sales, distribution, and production companies for independent documentaries and feature films. Submarine has been involved in the sale and distribution of 5 Academy Award®-winning documentaries — Citizenfour, 20 Feet From Stardom, The Cove, Man on Wire, and Searching For Sugar Man.

Recent Titles sold by Submarine include Dina, Chasing Coral, Whose Streets?, Trophy, Nobody Speak, the B-Side, Weiner, Life, Animated, Tickled, The One I Love, The Overnight, The Wolfpack, Tangerine, Blackfish, Cameraperson, The Keepers, and Risk among many others.

Submarine includes theatrical releasing & DVD imprint, Submarine Deluxe; a German distribution imprint with NFP Films called NFP Submarine Doks; and pan-Scandinavian imprint Non-Stop Submarine. Submarine principals also represent comic book libraries Creepy and Eerie, which are being developed across all platforms.

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