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Discovery Orders ‘Cajun Navy’ Doc on Storm Rescuers (EXCLUSIVE)

Discovery has greenlit “Cajun Navy,” a feature-length documentary that will focus on civilians who risk their lives to help people survive devastating storms, Variety has learned exclusively.

Formed in 2005 in response to Hurricane Katrina, the Cajun Navy is a group of men and women who, when everyone else flees deadly storms and floodwaters, run towards it to try and save people left behind. Members include fishermen, lawyers, pastors, and housewives.

“These are stories of neighbors helping neighbors, of people relying on each other, of communities overcoming devastating obstacles together,” says Nancy Daniels, chief brand officer for Discovery. “We are really excited to shine a light on the Cajun Navy’s inspiring work for our audience.”

Lightbox is producing the docu, which is currently in production and will air on Discovery in 2019. The multi-platform media company was founded in 2014 by two-time Academy Award-winning producer Simon Chinn (“Man on Wire,” “Searching for Sugar Man”) and his cousin, Emmy-winning producer Jonathan Chinn (“LA 92”). Both will serve as executive producers on “Cajun Navy.”

“The Cajun Navy was born, spontaneously, out of one of the most devastating natural disasters in living memory in America — and the fact that it has endured and continues to rescue people every hurricane season is a testament to the need it fills in American life,” said Simon and Jonathan Chinn. “This feature documentary will be a snapshot into a fascinating and little understood group of people in the deep South who are driven to risk life and limb to help their neighbors, regardless of religion, race or creed.”

James Newton (“The Detectives”) will direct the doc. Jon Bardin and Andrew O’Connell will serve as executive producers for Discovery, along with Lightbox’s Suzanne Lavery. Newton, who has access to various groups operating in Louisiana and surrounding areas under the Cajun Navy banner, will chronicle the group’s grass-roots rescue efforts from a movement that started during Hurricane Katrina and lives on today.

This marks Simon Chinn’s second collaboration with Discovery. The company co-financed “Man on Wire” (2008). “The team at Lightbox is fascinated by pivotal moments in American history like Hurricane Katrina and look for projects that are unique and timely stories,” said Simon and Jonathan Chinn.

Lightbox is currently in production on “Diagnosis,” an eight-part documentary series for Netflix produced in partnership with Scott Rudin Productions, and “Weinstein,” a theatrical documentary on the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which will also air on BBC 2. Lightbox’s most recent release is Kevin Macdonald’s “Whitney,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

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