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Sam Pollard discusses HBO’s ‘Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered’ docuseries (video)

Sam Pollard (Photo courtesy of HBO)

Sam Pollard is an award-winning director who gives a voice to the voiceless and shares the rich stories of our community. From 1979 to 1981, at least 30 Black children and young adults disappeared and were murdered in Atlanta. Now 40 years later, in a five-part documentary series, “Atlanta’s Missing And Murdered: The Lost Children,” Pollard delves into the mystery behind the killings and chronicles how race relations in Atlanta at the time impacted the investigation.

Pollard, the director and executive producer of the docuseries, spoke with rolling out about his latest project and why it was important for him to bring this story to life.

First, what drew you to documentary filmmaking?

What makes [a] documentary special is the fact that you have an opportunity to tell … real stories with real people and to try to make those stories as engaging, as dramatic, as compelling as you could a fiction film. I grew up at a time where I just watched lots of narrative films, fiction films. I thought that when I got into the film business, that’s exactly what I wanted to do — to be an editor of fiction films. I was very fortunate to work with an editor when I was a young apprentice editor, who introduced me to the world of documentaries. Now, as an editor, I could really figure out how to shape a narrative with real people and real characters and make it as interesting as a fiction film. 

Evelyn Miller (from left to right), Willie Mae Mathis, Sheila Baltazar and Annie Hill, all mothers of missing and murdered children in Atlanta, prepare to march down Auburn Avenue for a second annual memorial to the slain youths in 1984. (Photo courtesy of Georgia State University/AP/HBO)

What is it like giving voice to those who have been ignored for so long?

One of the things we felt that was important was to get as many mothers as possible to tell their stories [and] of new siblings, if possible, to tell their stories. Our supervising producer went out and found all these other people, and we would sit down in Atlanta from January of 2019 up until summer 2019. We were in Atlanta once a month, one week at a time, one week a month shooting all these interviews.

The thing that I realized sitting down with these siblings and these parents of the victims was how important it was for them to finally be able to tell their stories and to be able to say, ‘This is what’s been pent up in me for so many years and nobody’s ever heard it.’ Every one of those interviews that I sat in or did myself, they were some of the most painful interviews I’ve ever had the opportunity to do. But it finally gave an opportunity for these family members to speak out and speak about the emotion, the anger, the frustration, the pain they’ve been holding on to for so many years.

The five-part documentary series “Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children” is available on HBO Now, HBO Go and on-demand. Go to the next page to watch a clip from the documentary.

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