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Oprah Winfrey is getting ready to launch her new television channel in January -- with a little help from her friends! The Oprah Winfrey Network, a.k.a. OWN, has announced that it will air five original feature-length documentaries, each produced by a high-wattage star: Julia Roberts, Goldie Hawn, Forest Whitaker, Gabriel Byrne and Mariel Hemingway. Here's the run-down:
- Julia Roberts is making Extraordinary Moms, which will tell the true stories of mothers who "fight armies, outwit politicians, demand that corporations change their priorities and work to preserve the ecological balance of the world." The message of the film: the love that mothers have for their children can change the world. Perhaps Roberts was inspired by her feelings for her own three children?
- Goldie Hawn will executive-produce, host and narrate Searching for Happiness, in which she explores her own personal obsession: the pursuit of happiness. "After may years of exploring positive psychology, neuroscience and human behavior, I am thrilled to share valuable factual information from experts around the world, as well as my own personal experiences, to give our audience tools to live happier lives," Hawn says. Well, she is always smiling!
- Forest Whitaker will produce One Last Shot, a super-intense-sounding documentary about condemned-for-life criminals in Louisiana who volunteer for a unique hospice program: one that teaches them to care for their dying fellow inmates.
- Gabriel Byrne is collaborating on a unique documentary about the subject of homelessness. Tent City follows a group of Nashville residents displaced by a flood, as they work to gain political power and search for a permanent home for their community.
- Mariel Hemingway gets personal with Seven Suicides, in which she explores her own family's history of depression and suicide -- beginning with her grandfather Ernest Hemingway.
In addition to these new films, the network has acquired the rights to three other documentaries that received rave reviews on the festival circuit: Life 2.0, about players obsessed with the online world Second Life; Sons of Perdition, about teenage boys exiled from a fundamentalist Mormon community; and Family Affair, about how covered-up abuse destroys several generations of a family.
For anyone who thought that Oprah's network would be all fluffy self-help and affirmation, this new documentary line-up shows that the OWN will have some serious gravitas -- and some serious A-list names. Once again, Oprah proves that the "O" in her name may as well stand for Overachiever.
Will you watch any of Oprah's new documentaries? Chime in below!