Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who leaked confidential material to WikiLeaks, will be the subject of a new documentary, “XY Chelsea.”
Pulse Films, the film’s producer, has been granted unique access to Manning and the filmmakers have already spent two years shooting the project, will be on hand May 17, cameras in tow, when Manning is released from a maximum-security U.S. military prison. They will be presenting footage to buyers at the Cannes Film Festival in hopes of securing a worldwide deal. Josh Braun from Submarine will launching worldwide sales at Cannes.
In 2010, Manning, a trans woman, was sentenced to serve 35 years at an all-men’s military prison for leaking information about the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including highly embarrassing diplomatic cables and videos of airstrikes. Manning’s sentences was the longest sentence given to any whistleblower in the country’s history.
Tim Travers Hawkins (“1000 Voices”) is directing; Oscar-winner Laura Poitras (“Citizenfour”) is executive producing. “XY Chelsea” was developed by the Pulse Films team of Thomas Benski, Julia Nottingham and Lucas Ochoa. They will produce as well. Pulse’s previous credits include Andrea Arnold’s Cannes Jury Prize winner “American Honey,” indie hit “The Witch” and Kahlil Joseph and Beyonce’s Emmy-nominated “Lemonade.”
Hawkins has followed Manning and her legal team as they fought to get her out of prison and to obtain medical treatment for her gender dysphoria. Following two suicide attempts in 2016, they were able to convince then-President Barack Obama to commute her sentence before he left office. Current President Donald Trump has sharply criticized that decision.
The filmmakers say they are hoping to continue shooting Manning as she tries to adjust to being a free woman after years behind bars.
“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,” said Hawkins in a statement. “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.”
Benski, who is CEO of Pulse Films, said that the company wanted to present Manning to the world on her terms.
“I have always held the conviction that we as filmmakers should use all of the tools available to us to tell stories that can too often be buried or misrepresented,” he said in a statement. “This film has been so important to us here at Pulse, as it represents a completely unique way to help give a voice to an important figure denied one.”
The film was financed by the BFI, whose Mary Burke serves as executive producer, as well as First Look Media’s Topic & Field of Vision, whose Michael Bloom and Adam Pincus serve as executive producers.