Dueling Documentaries in the Works About Boeing 737 Max Air Disasters

     May 1, 2020


Armageddon and Deep Impact. Antz and A Bug’s Life. Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down. They’re called twin films — movies with similar premises released right on top of each other. The most recent example was the strange case of Fyre and Fyre Fraud, competing and complimentary documentaries about the ill-fated Fyre Festival that debuted the very same week on Netflix and Hulu, respectively.

And now, a new set of twin films has been announced within 24 hours, as Netflix has acquired a new documentary about the Boeing 737-Max air disasters from filmmaker Rory Kennedy (Last Days in Vietnam), while Participant is prepping a feature documentary that will reteam husband-and-wife filmmakers Barak Goodman and Rachel Dretzin, and be produced by Don Edkins, who lost his son in one of the plane crashes.

As reported by Variety, Kennedy’s film was initially developed as a series, but will air on Netflix as a feature documentary. It hails from Imagine Documentaries, which Justin Wilkes and Sara Bernstein run on behalf of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer‘s company Imagine Entertainment. Emmy-nominated writer Mark Bailey will produce the film with Kennedy via their Moxie Films banner.


Image via Warner Bros.

The untitled documentary will examine how two new aircrafts crashed within five months, killing 346 people. In addition to the human cost, the film will explore how these tragedies have forever changed Boeing’s reputation, both within the aviation community, and among consumers who put their trust in pilots, airlines and plane manufacturers each day.

Kennedy is expected to leave it up to viewers to decide who to hold responsible for these terrible incidents, which have been blamed on a variety of factors from design flaws and mechanical errors to pilot inexperience and corporate greed. The Oscar-nominated filmmaker will rely on first-person accounts to inform the narrative.

Meanwhile, Deadline reports that Participant’s documentary will be told through the lens of several family members as they crusade for justice and answers. The untitled film will examine how Boeing became obsessed with its short-term financial goals at the expense of safety and how America’s regulatory system failed in its duty to protect the flying public.

Participant will finance the project, which Dretzin and Goodman will direct and produce under their company Ark Media. Participant’s Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann will executive produce the film, which is expected to shine a light on the life of Max Thabiso Edkins, a World Bank employee who was killed in the March 20, 2019 crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.


Image via Trimark Pictures

“We are thrilled to be partnering again with Participant, along with producer Don Edkins, in telling the story of the downfall of one of America’s greatest manufacturing companies,”  Dretzin and Goodman said in a joint statement provided to Deadline. “It’s a story filled with remarkable characters; corporate greed; brave whistle blowers; and, of course, terrible human tragedy in the form of more than 340 passengers who lost their lives, and their loved ones who are seeking answers.”

Weyermann told Deadline the company was “honored that producer Don Edkins has trusted us with his story and with the unique access he brings to other families who have suffered such grievous losses. This is a story so personal, yet also such a profound indictment of corporate accountability. As directors, Rachel and Barak’s work is marked by extraordinary investigative journalism informed by a deep humanity and emotional intelligence, and we are incredibly proud to support this international team in bringing this story to audiences around the world.”

Boeing recently announced it would be forced to cut 10 percent of its work force — 16,000 jobs — due to the financial losses stemming from these two tragedies as well as the current pandemic. Imagine Documentaries is also behind Howard’s upcoming documentary Rebuilding Paradise, which will debut on NatGeo. To hear Howard talk about that project, click here.

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