5 highlights from National Geographic's upcoming content slate

  • National Geographic has announced its upcoming slate of national history series and specials, docu-series, and documentary features.
  • Highlights include Secrets of the Whales by James Cameron, Shark Beach with Chris Hemsworth, and Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller.
  • The next instalment of the Genius anthology in which Cynthia Erivo will play Aretha Franklin is set to air later this year.

National Geographic on Monday night unveiled its upcoming slate of national history series and specials, docu-series, and documentary features to the media during a virtual press conference.

From James Cameron to Chris Hemsworth to Aretha Franklin – here are the highlights.


This four-part series is executive produced by renowned filmmaker James Cameron and narrated by award-winning actress Sigourney Weaver. It chronicles the whale way of life and their challenges and triumphs in an ever-changing ocean.

National Geographic explorer and photographer Brian Skerry helps tell the story of a species he has been documenting for decades. Filmed across three years in 24 locations, it is a profoundly personal saga, venturing deep into the world of whales to reveal life and love from their perspective.

"National Geographic has long been deepening our connection to the world around us, and I am honoured to team up with them to narrate this stunning series," said Sigourney.

"Viewers get up close and personal and experience the extraordinary emotion, grace and power of these magnificent creatures. They get to know them intimately in order to ultimately realise just how like them we truly are."

A South African airing date is yet to be confirmed.


This two hour special follows National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore on his quest to use the power of photography to inspire people to save species at risk by photographing every species living in the world's zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. He just recently documented the 10 000th species.

Joe said during a panel interview that he has been doing this for 15 years and has 5 000 species to go.

A South African airing date is yet to be confirmed.

Joel Sartore in 'Photo Ark.'
Joel Sartore in 'Photo Ark.'


Trafficked with Mariana van Zeller takes viewers on a journey inside the most dangerous black markets on the planet. While she dives deeper and deeper into these underworlds, Mariana reveals — with characteristic boldness and empathy — that the people operating these trafficking rings are often a lot more like us than we realise.

The eight-part series offers viewers a mission-driven adventure to places rarely seen, providing an intimate peek behind the criminal curtain. Mariana spends time with major players from a host of underground economies — from tiger traffickers and international scammers to counterfeiters, gunrunners and fentanyl suppliers.

"I couldn't be more excited to share Trafficked with viewers around the world. People do not realise that black markets are all around us, hidden in plain sight. And what fascinates me most is how normal, law-abiding people — people like you and me — get pulled into these criminal worlds," said Mariana.

A South African airing date is yet to be confirmed.

Mariana van Zeller in 'Trafficked.'
Mariana van Zeller in 'Trafficked.'


Chris Hemsworth will host this special for National Geographic's SharkFest 2021.

In the one hour special, The Avengers actor will consult with marine biologists, surfers, conservationists and shark advocates in Australia to investigate the reason behind the increase in the number of shark attacks.


The third instalment in the Genius anthology series which sees Cynthia Erivo transform into the Queen of Soul will air later this year.

The series will explore Aretha's musical genius and incomparable career, as well as the immeasurable impact and lasting influence she has had on music and culture around the world, said the channel in a statement.

During a panel interview with the team behind the series, they shared that 5 of the 8 episodes were filmed before production was shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin in 'Genius.'
Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin in 'Genius.'

Speaking about the series, executive producer and director Anthony Hemingway said that the hard part was trying to figure out what story they were telling.

"There is so much of her life to draw from, thankfully in our eight hours of this series we get to really live in it and celebrate her and breathe life into her in so many ways and tap into all the complexities that really represent the queen."

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Compiled by Leandra Engelbrecht

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