HBO has greenlit director Muta’Ali’s (pictured) Storm Over Brooklyn, the winning project of the inaugural Feature Documentary Initiative created in 2017 by production company Lightbox and the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), as part of a joint initiative to foster diversity in feature documentary.

Storm Over Brooklyn, directed by Muta’Ali and tells the story of Yusuf Hawkins, a black American teenager who was shot and murdered after being trapped by a group of white youths in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in 1989. Sixteen-year-old Hawkins had come to Bensonhurst with three friends to look at a used car, when they were attacked by the hostile mob, whose members mistakenly believed that Hawkins was dating a neighborhood girl who was white. The incident shocked New York and the world and unleashed a torrent of racial tension and led to televised protests and marches. The growing unrest contributed to the ousting of New York City Mayor Ed Koch in favour of David Dinkins, who became the city’s first African American mayor.
Storm Over Brooklyn was conceived by director Muta’Ali and selected from more than 300 submissions to the initiative, which was open to all African American documentary filmmakers and any documentary filmmakers interested in exploring non-fiction stories and themes that speak directly to the African American experience. 
Muta’Ali said: "Yusuf Hawkins’ murder had a major effect on the public, and the locked away regret and sorrow questions a history that those involved have held onto for nearly 30 years. We will finally see the light of day in the context of our time. This is due to the courage of Yusuf’s loving family, as well as the visionary talent teams at HBO, Lightbox and ABFF."
“We are genuinely thrilled that HBO has greenlit Storm over Brooklyn – a powerful, timely film which feels so relevant to today’s audience even though the events it depicts took place 30 years ago,” said Lightbox co-founders Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn. “Muta’Ali is a talented and passionate director who is perfectly placed to bring this highly relevant story to the screen and we are proud to support his vision. We are delighted to be working once again with our friends at HBO Documentary Films whose reputation for high-quality, thought-provoking documentaries make it the perfect home for this project and we’re honoured to be working in partnership with them to nurture and support new, diverse creative talent.”
"It’s an honour to partner with HBO Documentary Films on Storm Over Brooklyn which is a natural extension of the ABFF HBO relationship. Together, we have been fostering diverse storytellers in the narrative space for 22 years. Expanding into the documentary space and production is a very exciting opportunity for ABFF and the filmmakers who come through our talent pipeline programs. We could not have wished for a more fitting home than HBO," said Jeff Friday, Founder & CEO of ABFF Ventures, LLC.
Lightbox and the ABFF announced today that the second year of this multi-year programme will open for entries on July 18, 2018. Go to for more information. Selected films will be developed and produced by Lightbox and ABFF Studios.
Storm Over Brooklyn is directed by Muta’Ali and executive produced by Jeff Friday, Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn. Academy Award-winning directors Daniel Lindsay and TJ Martin, who directed Lightbox’s feature documentary about the 1992 Los Angeles riots, LA 92, have also come on board the project as Executive Producers and supporters of the initiative.
Lightbox was founded by producer Simon Chinn (Man on Wire, Searching for Sugar Man, Whitney) and producer Jonathan Chinn (LA 92, Fantastic Lies, Whitney).
Lightbox’s Whitney, the theatrical feature documentary about the global superstar, directed by Kevin Macdonald, screens at the American Black Film Festival this week ahead of its nationwide US release on July 6th. The company recently announced a new theatrical feature documentary, Tina Turner (working title) to be directed by Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin.

Jon Creamer

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