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NGC US commissions Pope Francis Biopic, 30th anniv special on Space Shuttle Challenger disaster

MUMBAI: US infotainment broadcaster National Geographic Channel (NGC) has announced two upcoming specials focused on people and events that have had a profound impact on modern history.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio – otherwise known as Pope Francis – will be the subject of the biopic ‘Rebel Pope’. Space Shuttle Challenger’s ill-fated 1986 flight will be revisited on its 30th anniversary via rare footage from the time in ‘Challenger Disaster: Lost Tapes’.

Both one hour films are set to air globally on NGC in 171 countries and 45 languages in early 2016.

‘Rebel Pope’ interweaves dramatic, scripted accounts of episodes from Bergoglio’s pre-Vatican life and career with documentary interviews from those close to him during this time. From Bergoglio’s childhood to his entry into the Jesuit order, the film tracks his rise through the Church hierarchy, and eventual emergence as the ‘Bishop of the Slums’. His radical views would stir controversy in some circles, but also put him in line to lead one of the world’s oldest and largest religious institutions. Filming on the biopic will take place in Argentina and Colombia.

NGCI executive VP, head of international content Hamish Mykura said, “Pope Francis is a fascinating figure with an incredible backstory that hasn’t been told in full until now. ‘Rebel Pope’ is the definitive story of his rise to power. Between the scripted elements and the interviews, we really get under the skin of this man of the people to find out how his inspiring beliefs evolved and what the influences were that shaped him on his path to the papacy.”

On 28 January in 1986, the eyes of the world were turned toward Cape Canaveral as NASA prepared to send the first civilian into the stratosphere. ‘Challenger Disaster: Lost Tapes’ follows the story of the Space Shuttle Challenger and its crew, including school teacher Christa McAuliffe. Chosen from thousands of applicants, the 36-year-old’s objective was to expand the understanding of the nation’s school children about space and the next generation of interplanetary travel. But her dreams – and those of Nasa – were tragically cut short when the Challenger exploded just after lift-off in front of a live television audience.

The events of the days leading up to the disaster are detailed in this unique film, told solely via rarely seen national and local news reports, and little-known internal NASA archival footage featuring Christa McAuliffe rehearsing the lessons she planned to give from space as well as from cameras inside Mission Control in the hours after the tragedy occurred.

Mykura said, “As we approach the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster, the opportunity to go behind the scenes in a way never seen before and put the event into the context of its time, is a rare privilege. With leaps and bounds being made in space exploration, it is vital that we fully understand the trajectory that led us to this point and acknowledge those who sacrificed their lives in our quest to better understand the solar system.”