HBO’s new documentary series about Tiger Woods’ life and career has faced recent backlash over the lack of black and brown representation on the production team, per Deadline. The most prominent voice in the backlash has come from Geeta Gandbhir (director, Why We Hate; producer, The Sentence), who has won three Emmys: two for Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program and one for News & Documentary Emmy Award for Outstanding Politics and Government Documentary for her work on Armed with Faith.
The docuseries on Tiger Woods is co-helmed by Oscar-nominated Matthew Heineman (A Private War, Cartel Land) and Emmy-nominated Matthew Hamachek (Cartel Land, Amanda Knox). Jigsaw Productions’ Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side) will serve as executive producer.
Gandbhir began to criticize the racial and ethnic makeup of the production team when Heineman announced the project on his Facebook page on July 10th. You can view the post below:
In the comments section, Gandbhir wrote:
“This is a great project. I said this to Matthew Hamachek as well, and feel compelled to ask you – in the spirit of being anti racist – why did you both, two white men opt to direct this film? Is Sam the only black person who is above the line? I want to make you aware of the asks from the black and brown community – as you have a huge platform, and the whole community needs to grapple with the issue of systemic racism in our community.” (via Facebook)
Gandbhir’s comments are respectful, but do not fail to put Hamachek and Heineman’s decisions under public review. Subsequent comments on that same post show overwhelming support for Gandbhir’s stance, calling for a more diversity-oriented approach when choosing a director or producer for the series.
Heineman posted a lengthy comment in response to Ganbhir, taking responsibility for his actions and acknowledging that he could have done better. An excerpt from the comment reads, “I absolutely should have done more to diversify our Tiger crew. I wish I could go back in time and change things, and it’s my responsibility to course correct and do better… Going forward, I want to work to expand and strengthen my network of collaborators and, as many have noted on this chain, use my position to advocate for a diversity of voices in all aspects of our industry” (via Facebook).
This change marks an important milestone for diversity in the documentary community. Respectful discussions such as the one between Ganbhir and Heineman give hope to the faithful telling of stories that concern people of color.