Channel 4 has unveiled the latest batch of films for its flagship single documentary strand Cutting Edge.
The commissions explore subjects as diverse as the law of joint enterprise to naturism and dementia. They employ a variety of form – from an innovative live broadcast to a mini fixed rig being installed in a gun shop.
The strand will feature authored stories including David Baddiel and his brother dealing with their father’s rare form of dementia and access to the work of police negotiators. Several films are produced by smaller independent production companies new to Channel 4.
Documentaries Commissioning Editor Alisa Pomeroy said: The films tackle a range of subjects and stories, they can be everything from quirky to heart-wrenching, often making challenging and less populist subjects accessible. Crucially, the one uniting theme is that they all reflect the world around us, revealing brand new stories, or exploring well-trodden stories with a fresh and modern voice.”
The films will air from this summer on Channel 4.
The descriptions of the films below are taken from Channel 4’s press notes.
Cochlear Live (w/t)
In a television first, Channel 4 will attempt to lend the sensibility of a fixed rig documentary to a live broadcast. Cochlear Live will bring together a group of profoundly deaf people and over the course of an hour of live television, share the moment they hear for the very first time since having a cochlear implant fitted. The implant, an electronic device which stimulates the inner ear, can replace hearing that has been lost and give access to sounds users were previously unaware of. How much hearing an implant allows is unique to each individual.
One month before the live programme each person will undergo surgery to have their cochlear implant fitted. Then on the night of transmission, the instant each person’s implant is switched on will be broadcast live from a UK hospital.
In a major departure from traditional documentary-making in which the subject is often subject to many hours of detailed fine editing, this film will be a live hour of documentary television, with this major life altering event will be revealed in real-time.
Production Company: True North
Creative Director: Andrew Sheldon
Nothing divides America more than their constitutional right to bear arms versus the merits of gun control.
As the right to walk in off the street and buy a gun continues to be fiercely debated in the run-up to the US election, this film captures the role they currently play in so many people’s lives by placing a fixed-rig of cameras inside a small, family-run gun shop in Michigan.
Documenting the many and varied customers who come through the shop’s doors, the film will reveal insights into the relationship that everyday Americans have with their guns that go beyond the gun-toting stereotypes.
The film will introduce some strong personalities, humour and warmth to this critical issue, whilst exploring all sides of the debate. British audiences will instantly recognise the familiar characters in the shop-owners and customers and routines of shopping in a local store – but the products on sale will be shockingly different.
Production Company: Rogan Productions
Director: John Douglas (Our War, Life and Death Row)
Executive producer: James Rogan
Dealing with DAD: Dementia and Disinhibition (w/t)
Dealing with DAD (w/t) explores the relationship between comedian and writer David Baddiel, his brother Ivor and their father Colin who suffers from one of the most extraordinary forms of dementia called Pick’s Disease, which has stripped Colin of all his inhibitions, and stolen his memories.
In an intimate portrayal of their family life, the documentary will follow David and Ivor as they struggle with the challenges posed by their father’s illness and reveal what it is like to care for someone with this incurable and rare form of dementia. David has also created a one-man show partly about his father and his illness. Through meeting audience members, keen to share their stories, the brothers come into contact with others caring for relatives with Picks Disease – and the sufferers themselves.
David Baddiel says: "We have a very homogenous idea of dementia: it’s a silent, sad, empty-eyed condition. Actually it takes many forms, and one of these – Pick’s Disease – is a wild and whirling, antisocial state. Which doesn’t make it any easier to deal with – in some ways, harder. But coming from a family which prefers to talk about taboo subjects rather than brush them under the carpet, me and my older brother felt that there was a film to be made about dealing with our father, and how this condition has both exaggerated, as well as reduced who he is. Our aim is to expand our own, and everyone else’s, understand of dementia, but also, partly, to chronicle what is left of our father."
Production Company: Sundog Pictures
Director: Charlie Russell (Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die)
Executive producers: Dov Freedman & Sam Anthony
Kids Convicted of Murder (w/t)
Kids Convicted of Murder (w/t) is an observational documentary following a group of mothers whose children were convicted of murder under the doctrine of joint enterprise and who are now attempting to get their kids released from prison.
In February this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the law of Joint Enterprise has been wrongly applied for 30 years. The law, which has allowed people to be convicted of murder even if they did not inflict the fatal blow, means hundreds of prisoners can now appeal their convictions. In recent times, the law has been used as a highly effective way of prosecuting homicide – especially in gang-related cases if defendants ‘could’ have foreseen violent acts by their associates. However it has proved to be highly controversial because, it has been argued, it lowers the burden of proof on the prosecution and can sweep up bystanders into a prosecution and conviction.
Production Company: Honey Productions.
Executive Producer: Amelia Hann
The Great British Skinny Dip (w/t)
This year British Naturism, Britain’s largest group devoted to the lifestyle, is reaching out to encourage more people to give it a go, challenging British attitudes to nudity along the way. The initiative is the brainchild of the organisation’s Andrew Welch, who is spearheading an event he’s calling "Septembare" when, over a weekend in September, non-naturists (or textiles as they call them) will get the chance to join one of a number of skinny dips that are being planned across Britain.
The documentary will follow the organisation’s attempt to co-opt venues and drum up support, and explore what the appeal is – why a range of people from all walks of life enjoy spending their spare time in the buff and how they manage to do it in a country where the climate doesn’t naturally lend itself.
Naturism is increasingly being sought out online by young people seeking escapism, fun and freedom – choosing to lay themselves bare at a time of increased body consciousness and airbrushing. With access to nudist clubs across the country as well as the wilder activities off the beaten track, this film will lift the lid on the world of naturism, climaxing with the skinny-dip weekend which may or may not bring new converts to the faith.
Production Company: ZKK
Director: Victoria Silver
Executive producer: Kathy O’Neil
Therapy Weekend (w/t)
Every single day a child in Britain is bereaved through homicide. Winston’s Wish – the charity that runs the UK’s only residential weekend specifically for children bereaved by murder or manslaughter has allowed unprecedented access for this film.
The residential weekend invites a group of sixteen children, some as young as four, along with their surviving parent or grandparents to face their grief and pain together, under the close guidance of bereavement professionals. Using a combination of multiple cameras and a fixed rig, this documentary witnesses the full impact of the weekend and observes the children and their family as they meet others that have an understanding of what they have been through.
These are the stories of children whose lives have changed overnight, and the team of people who are helping them to rebuild their lives.
Production Company: Dragonfly TV
Director: Kirsty Cunningham
Executive Producer: Emma Loach & Jessie Versluys
Lifesavers follows the work of a hand-picked group of police officers who are tasked with the ultimate challenge – rushing to the scene of potential suicides and trying to persuade desperate people that life is worth living. British suicide rates are the highest they’ve been for more than a decade. On average, someone in the UK takes their own life every 78 minutes.
Across the country, approximately 200 men and women have the job of fighting back against what has been described as a ‘silent epidemic’. They are Police Negotiators, regular officers from any rank, specially selected for their interpersonal skills, who are tasked with persuading desperate people that life is worth living. Capturing first-hand the extraordinary lengths they go to in order to save lives, this film reveals the pressure of their work where their negotiations can quite literally mean the difference between life and death.
Production Company: Minnow
Executive producers: Ruth Kelly and Colin Barr
Bring Me Back to Life (w/t)
This film presents a brand new approach to biographical documentary-making. Recounting the stories of two patients at a life-or-death crossroads in Intensive Care, this moving, life-affirming film explores their lives in depth – asking who they are and what has bought them here – as their future hangs perilously in the balance.
Production Company: The Garden
Director: Graeme McAulay
Executive Producers: Kate Collier, Nick Curwin, Magnus Temple
Bailiff Busters (w/t)
Meet the new grass roots campaigners with a mission to prevent people being evicted by standing up to bailiffs. As a result of the housing crisis, over a thousand people a week are losing their homes. This documentary follows the eviction resistance campaigners dedicated to trying to keep families in their homes by stopping the bailiffs in their tracks.
Production Company: Nine Lives Media
Director: Colin Stone
Executive Producer: Ricardo Pollack and Cat Lewis