May 17, 2024 — NBC News Studios today announces an upcoming feature documentary TUNNEL 29, co-produced with Story Force Entertainment (Spotlight, Shiny Happy People) and to be directed by Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Nicole Newnham (The Disappearance of Shere Hite, Crip Camp). The film chronicles the remarkable story of a multinational group of students who risked their lives and defied the Iron Curtain by digging a tunnel under the Berlin Wall, enabling dozens of East Germans to escape to the West. With exclusive access to the Emmy-winning 1962 NBC News documentary The Tunnel – covertly filmed during the perilous operation – TUNNEL 29 is a fast-paced, character-driven thriller exploring this daring act of resistance against one of the most repressive regimes in history.

When the students set out to dig a tunnel more than the length of a football field from West to East Berlin, they were determined to avoid collapse, flooding, spies, informants, and the CIA. But as danger and setbacks mounted, they sought critical funding to continue the dig and help ensure their safety. In search of escape stories to share with viewers thousands of miles away, legendary NBC News producer Reuven Frank (creator of the Huntley-Brinkley Report) struck a deal for exclusive rights to film the excavation and escape, and the tunnelers would use those funds to complete their mission. But once the epic feat was over, NBC faced unexpected opposition from the Kennedy Administration, which feared broadcasting a documentary about the covert mission on national television could provoke a military conflict with the Soviet Union. Under mounting pressure from the White House, NBC scrapped its original air date for its 90-minute special before ultimately broadcasting The Tunnel in December 1962 and earning three Emmy Awards, including Program of the Year (the first documentary to do so).

NBC News Studios will release never before seen film reels with raw footage shot for the original special on the tunnel, as well as a trove of contextual archival footage from the era. The documentary will feature interviews with surviving tunnelers and eyewitnesses who will reveal the gripping story of how the tunnel succeeded without detection, while examining the political realities of the Cold War era. TUNNEL 29 is a testament to the human quest for freedom and democracy, and to the power of ordinary people willing to stand up to tyranny.

“TUNNEL 29 will cinematically immerse the audience in the fraught and tense time when the world grappled with the trauma and consequences of the Wall and the Cold War – a time that bears an astonishing resemblance to today,” said Nicole Newnham. “I am so thrilled to be reunited with the brilliant creative executives at NBC News Studios  for a second project. They are astonishingly creative, passionate filmmakers and journalists who make the impossible possible. I’m also thrilled  to partner on this with the amazing Cori Shepherd and Blye Faust at Story Force – I’ve long admired the way they produce highly entertaining, beautifully crafted  films drawn from rigorous journalistic inquiry to tell stories that need to be told. This is a dream team!”

“This is an exemplary collaboration on a history-making story that NBC News Studios is perfectly positioned to tell,” said Kimberley Ferdinando, Executive Producer at NBC News Studios. “Nicole’s films demonstrate unrivaled artistry in reclaiming and reframing the historical narratives of people with the courage and determination to rally against oppression in pursuit of a more equitable world. And, we’re thrilled to partner with the incredible team at Story Force, which shares our passion for journalism and this story, to bring this important and timely film to the big screen.”

 “The tunnelers and the NBC News team led by Reuven Frank were kindred spirits – true rebels and innovators driven by a rock ‘n’ roll attitude to pull off something extraordinary,” said Blye Faust of Story Force Entertainment. “Reuven used to say ‘Journalism doesn’t have rules. It has ethics.’ That maverick spirit shines through in how they pursued this story, and we are deeply honored to be partnered with NBC News Studios on such a fascinating and unexpected story based on their own history. And Nicole Newham – who was actually present at the fall of the Berlin Wall – is the perfect filmmaker to craft this amazing archive into a highly entertaining story with an incredibly cool mid-century aesthetic, while reckoning with the dramatic and extremely dangerous real-world stakes that were at the heart of this.”

Molly O’Brien and Kimberley Ferdinando will produce for NBC News Studios, and Cori Shepherd and Blye Faust will produce for Story Force.


NBC News Studios is a documentary production company inside NBC News. It partners with premier filmmakers and leverages the assets of its esteemed news organization to bring stories to the screen, including eight decades of television and radio archive, a global network of journalists, a world-class investigative team, and a rich trove of editorial IP. The team has decades of experience in documentary film and television and has been honored with multiple Emmy, Peabody and DuPont awards. Recent work includes, Every Body (Tribeca Film Festival/Focus Features) directed by Julie Cohen, Leguizamo Does America (MSNBC), The Disappearance of Shere Hite (Sundance/IFC Films) directed by Nicole Newnham and co-produced with This Machine; Diamond Hands: The Legend of Wall Street Bets (SXSW/MSNBC) from Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari; the scripted mini-series The Thing About Pam (NBC) starring Renée Zellweger and produced with Blumhouse Productions and Big Picture Co. Upcoming projects include collaborations with directors Errol Morris and Dawn Porter. NBC News Studios co-sponsors Original Voices, an artist development and inclusion initiative for independent documentary filmmakers, in partnership with NBCU Academy. Recent Original Voices grantees include Sundance prize-winning Bad Press, Independent Spirit Award Truer Than Fiction winner Unseen, and Union, which premiered at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival in U.S Documentary Competition.


Story Force Entertainment, led by Oscar- and Emmy-winning producers Blye Faust and Cori Shepherd, focuses on elevated entertainment for both scripted and nonfiction premium film and television.

Past projects include the Amazon docuseries smash hits Shiny Happy People and LuLaRich, and the 2015 feature film Spotlight, which was awarded Best Motion Picture and Best Original Screenplay at the 2016 Academy Awards. Story Force is currently in production on a new docuseries at Amazon, and their feature documentary The Grab, is set to be released this summer by Magnolia in partnership with Participant Media. Other credits include Bending the Arc, a 2020 Netflix feature documentary; Belly of the Beast, a 2020 Emmy award-winning and Peabody-nominated documentary released by PBS/Independent Lens; Warm Bodies, a global box office hit feature film for Lionsgate; Oscar-nominated HBO documentary Open Heart; and Collisions, an Emmy Award winner that premiered at Sundance.

Additional projects include the 2023 Loeb Award finalist podcast Bad Bets: The Unraveling of Trevor Milton, and Dr. Death: Bad Magic, produced in partnership with Wondery as the fourth season of the incredibly popular podcast series. Other Story Force production partners include Netflix, FX, Hulu, and Searchlight, among others.


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