National Geographic documentary films specialize in telling stories of adventurers whose journeys put themselves at great risk, but few are more unbelievable than “The Mission.” NatGeo has released the official trailer for the upcoming documentary, set for theatrical release October 13.
The documentary focuses on the story of John Chau, an American evangelical Christian missionary. In 2018 and at the age of 26, Chau traveled to the extremely remote Andaman Islands, claimed by India but closer to Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal, on an unsanctioned missionary trip. There, he repeatedly visited North Sentinel Island, which is restricted by the Indian government to outside visitors because of the indigenous Sentinelese, a voluntarily “uncontacted people,” who live there. They’re considered so vulnerable to contamination from outside influences that the Indian government has armed marine patrols around the island to prevent landings. Chau somehow made it ashore, nonetheless. It did not go well.
The film, from “Boys State” directing duo Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss, retells Chau’s story, featuring interviews with his friends, mentors, and family. Constructed with animated sequences, video archives, and entries from Chau’s diary, the movie uses the story as a springboard to examine the history and dark side of missionary work, and how the teachings of Chau’s evangelical Christian community and his desire for adventure ultimately helped lead to his death.
The documentary is produced by non-fiction production company Lightbox. Simon Chinn, Jonathan Chinn, and Will Cohen produce the film. Vanessa Tovell and Carolyn Sperry Lewis co-produce, and Doug Bock Clark executive produces. Carolyn Bernstein executive produces for National Geographic. Aaron Wickenden edited the film, while Thorsten Thielow served as director of photography. The animation was done by Jason Carpenter and Holly Stone, and the score was composed by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans.
National Geographic’s previous documentary films include last year’s “Fire of Love,” which was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars, as well as the Oscar-winning “Free Solo.” Other recent films distributed by the company include “The Cave,” “The First Wave,” “The Territory,” and “The Rescue.”
“The Mission” premieres at Telluride Film Festival August 31. National Geographic Documentary Films will release the movie in U.S. theaters October 13. Watch the full trailer below.