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HBO Orders 'Storm Over Brooklyn' — Doc On Yusuf Hawkins

Updated: Jun 23, 2019

Originally Published on Shadow And Act by Trey Mangum on June 18th 2018

HBO has ordered Storm Over Brooklyn, a documentary that will tackle the death of black teenager Yusuf Hawkins, who was shot and killed after being trapped by a group of white youth in 1989 Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

The project is a result of the inaugural Feature Documentary Initiative created in 2017 between UK/U.S. producer Lightbox and the American Black Film Festival to foster diversity in the feature documentary arena.

Directed by Muta’Ali, the film will center on the crime which shocked New York and the nation and its trickle-down impacts. 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 in an already divided city and led to televised protests and marches. The growing unrest contributed to the ousting of New York City Mayor Ed Koch in favor of David Dinkins, who became the city’s first and only African American mayor.

“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," said Muta'Ali.

“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. Muta’Ali is a talented and passionate director who is perfectly placed to bring this highly impactful 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 and whose reputation for high-quality, thought-provoking documentaries make it the perfect home for this project and we’re honored to be working in partnership with them to nurture and support new, diverse creative talent," said Lightbox co-founders Jonathan Chinn and Simon Chinn.

“It's an honor 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 and CEO of ABFF Ventures, LLC.

Lightbox and the ABFF have also announced that the second year of the initiative has opened for entries. Go to for more information.

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