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HBO presents Atlanta's Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children (2019), an original five-part docuseries that explores the murders of 29 African-American children in Atlanta, Georgia, between 1979 and 1981.
In those years, Atlanta had become the ideal place for black communities to live and prosper. In the 19th century, after failing to secede from the Union, the state of Georgia, an important cotton and slave center, took in a good number of former slaves and took on the libertarian ideals of the time. Since then, the integration of black citizens became a way of life in the state and the city. In the mid-20th century, Atlanta was a major center of the Civil Rights struggle; it was there that Martin Luther King Jr. was born. Dr. King and other activists also founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a leading organization in the Black political movement. By 1973, the city had its first African-American mayor, Democrat Maynard Jackson Jr. However, underneath that egalitarian thrust, racism and poverty continued to grow. The Ku Klux Klan still roamed the streets, and the percentage of African-American families with few resources was significant. Crime and lack of surveillance was a common aspect of daily life in poor black neighborhoods.
At the start of Atlanta's Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children, director Samuel D. Pollard introduces what was called "the city too busy to hate”. Growing, prosperous, and open to the well-being of the African-American community, Atlanta also elected a Black mayor to a second term. But far from the affluent middle-class areas, something very different was happening in the slums African-American children were disappearing without a trace, and weeks later they were found mutilated under bridges or in the woods. Families made complaints to the authorities, but no one paid any attention to them. Politicians turned a blind eye as the prestige of the promising city could not be put at risk. Besides, who cared about the deaths of a few lower-class African-American children? However, a group of women, led by Camille Bell, mother of one of the murdered children, set about demanding justice for their dead. There was much speculation, talk of Klan operations, religious sects, and even pedophile groups (pornography was a powerful industry in Atlanta). By the 1980s, African-American citizens, fed up with not being heard, organized themselves into search and rescue groups (some of them quite violent). With the case already turned into a national scandal, the FBI made its appearance in Georgia as agents were on the lookout for an immediate culprit and found him: a young African-American photographer and aspiring music producer named Wayne Williams. Apparently, under the guise of pursuing a career in music, Williams was recruiting his victims. Whether he was the killer is still in doubt today and many consider him the perfect scapegoat.
Atlanta's Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children looks at the evidence and doubts surrounding Williams and builds up the crime story through interviews with victims' families, retired FBI detectives, and agents who were on the case, journalists and activists at the time, as well as presenting us with previously unpublished court papers and archival footage. Thus, Pollard's merit lies not only in delving into the elusive case and questioning Williams' guilt but also in making us understand the depth of the human pain of the relatives and the great social and political framework of a complex city like Atlanta in such rich and nuanced years of U.S. history.
Singer, composer, and actor John Legend has produced not only music but also television series, films, and documentaries for years. He was the executive producer of Damien Chazelle's highly successful La La Land (2016), which won six Academy Awards. This time, Legend produces for HBO, Atlanta's Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children, under the direction of Samuel D. Pollard.
Pollard es un experimentado cineasta que ha dirigido y producido una amplia variedad de documentales. Su interés más personal es la historia afroamericana, casi siempre en el contexto de la lucha por los derechos civiles. En 1998 se hizo de una nominación al Oscar a Mejor documental como productor de 4 Little Girls, trabajo dirigido por Spike Lee que se adentra en la muerte de cuatro niñas afroamericanas en el atentado supremacista que hizo estallar una iglesia bautista en 1963. También junto a Lee produjo When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006), la mini serie documental sobre la desafortunada respuesta del gobierno norteamericano ante el huracán Katrina, con la que obtuvo el Emmy a Mejor edición de un programa de no ficción. Cabe destacar que en 2018 se granjeó también del Premio de la audiencia en el Festival de cine de Atlanta por Maynard (2017), una investigación biográfica sobre el primer alcalde afroamericano de la capital de Georgia. Justamente, Maynard Jackson Jr. estaba en ejercicio de sus funciones cuando empezaron a ser noticia los asesinatos de los niños.
Enjoy the docuseries Atlanta's Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children, now on HBO and HBO GO.
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