Announcement coincides with Manning's release after seven years in military prison in connection with bombshell Wikileaks data dump
On the day former military intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning walked free from prison in the U.S., a documentary project on her life was announced in Cannes.
British director Tim Travers Hawkins was set to document Manning's release from the maximum security military prison in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas today as part of his film to be titled XY Chelsea, according to a press release from producers involved in the project.
The announcement of the documentary was made as the 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival opened in the South of France. Footage from the documentary, which has been in production for over two years already, will be screened at an invitation only event in Cannes, producers said.
Now, with Chelsea emerging from confinement, the journey of this film has reached its most historic and exciting moment.
Born Bradley Manning, the U.S. army specialist came out as trans in 2013, the day after she was sentenced to 35 years in a military prison for violating the Espionage Act and other charges. Manning was court martialed after she was revealed as the source who had leaked hundreds of thousands of military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks, a major embarrassment to the Obama administration. Manning initially defended her decision to release the sensitive information, saying her intent was to spark debate about U.S. military interventions abroad and American foreign policy. She later apologized for "hurting the Unites States."
"I am sorry for unintended consequence of my actions. When I made these decisions, I believed I was going to help people, not hurt people," Manning declared at her sentencing hearing in August 2013.
President Obama commuted Manning's sentence to time served plus 120 days, shortly before he left office. Her original 35 year term was the longest sentence ever handed out for leaking classified information.
"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," said Julia Nottingham, head of documentary at Pulse Films, one of the companies behind XY Chelsea. "It’s an incredibly ambitious film that will be eye-opening."
The press release noted the production companies involved have secured "exclusive rights" to Manning's story.
"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," the director commented.
Academy Award-winning director Laura Poitras, whose film Risk -- about Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange -- is now in theaters, will serve as one of XY Chelsea's executive producers. Poitras' colleague at Field of Vision, Charlotte Cook, is another of the Manning documentary's executive producers.
XY CHELSEA is the journey of her fight for survival and dignity, and her transition from prisoner to a free woman.
"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," commented Michael Bloom, president of First Look Media, another of the stakeholders on the project.
The press release noted Josh Braun from Submarine will spearhead worldwide sales of the film during Cannes. Submarine handled the sales of Poitras’ Citizenfour and Risk.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.