Betsy West and Julie Cohen, the filmmaking team behind “RBG” and “Julia,” have found their next project.
The duo will partner on “Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down,” a look at the former congresswoman’s courage and perseverance in the aftermath of a 2021 assassination attempt the left her partially paralyzed and with the language impairment, aphasia. In total, 13 people were wounded and six were killed in the attack, including a 9-year-old girl.
The directors have been granted access to home movies that were taken at the hospital. It will also include current-day cinema verité footage documenting Gifford’s painstaking recovery from a gunshot to her head and emergence as one of America’s most passionate and powerful advocates for gun violence prevention.
The filmmakers tell a more personal story, as Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly gives up his job as a NASA astronaut to support his wife’s recovery, before launching a successful run for the U.S. Senate for Arizona. Production of “Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down” is near completion.
The film reunites West and Cohen with CNN Films, the producer of “RBG” and “Julia.” TIME Studios will co-produce the movie. West and Cohen have shown a great interest in producing films on iconic women, with “Julia” focusing on culinary trailblazer Julia Child and “RBG” recounting Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life story.
CNN Films chief Amy Entelis and senior VP Courtney Sexton are executive producers alongside Ian Orefice and Alexandra Johnes of Time Studios, and Oren Jacoby of Storyville Films. Cohen and West are also producing the film under their Storyville Films banner, along with Lisa Erspamer of Lisa Erspamer Entertainment, and Sam Jinishian, of Storyville Films.
“Within minutes of meeting Gabby Giffords, we knew we had to make a film about this phenomenal woman,” said Cohen and West. “The intelligence, humor, and toughness she brings to every personal and political challenge that comes her way makes Gabby not only an ideal documentary subject, but also a spectacular human being to spend time with,” they said of working with her for the film.
“We are so pleased to collaborate again with Betsy and Julie to tell the story of a remarkable woman,” said Entelis, executive VP for talent and content development for CNN Worldwide. “They have beautifully showcased Gabrielle Giffords’ journey, one of strength and resilience in the face of tragedy.”
“Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down is a triumphant portrayal of resilience, courage, and the power of the human spirit. We could not be more thrilled to partner with the remarkable team of Betsy and Julie as they have created one of the most inspirational films of our time,” said Ian Orefice, president of Time Studios.
“Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down” will include interviews with former president Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and U.S. Rep. James Clyburn. Along with interviews with the couple, the film includes footage filmed by Kelly himself and interviews with Kelly’s daughters, Claudia and Claire; Gabrielle Giffords’ mother, Gloria Giffords; her surgeon, Dr. Dong Kim; her speech pathologists, Dr. Hirsch and Angie Glynn; and other survivors of the Tucson shooting.
Still a gun owner herself, Gabby Giffords founded the gun safety organization, “Giffords,” following the Newtown, CT, shootings, and advocates at both the state and federal level for what she calls “common sense gun laws” “I’m not against guns,” she says, “I’m against gun violence.” Along with her speech pathologist, Dr. Fabi Hirsch. She is also a leader with the nonprofit, “Friends of Aphasia.”
The deal for Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down was negotiated by Stacey Wolf, senior vice president of business affairs, and Kelly MacLanahan, assistant general counsel, both of CNN Worldwide, on behalf of CNN Films. CNN Films acquired worldwide television rights to Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down.” Other rights for the film distribution are available for sale, with CAA Media Finance and UTA are co-representing the film.
Time Studios and CNN Films recently teamed up on the Emmy-nominated documentary “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” directed by Dawn Porter.
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