Hoodlum Entertainment, Aurora Films’ Antony Waddington and Ákos Armont and Sweetshop & Green’s Sharlene George and Gal Greenspan are teaming up to produce an asylum seeker drama adapted from a 2018 book.
Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani chronicled his harrowing experiences in the tome No Friend But The Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison.
Boochani fled Iran in 2012 after the newspaper he co-founded was raided by the Iranian government. He attempted to travel to Australia by boat from Indonesia but the vessel was intercepted and he ended up on Manus Island, where he spent nearly seven years.
He wrote the book, which details the riots which erupted in 2014, in Persian on WhatsApp on a contraband phone smuggled onto the island, which was subsequently translated into English by academic Omid Tofighian.
It has been sold to 19 countries and won a slew of awards including the Victorian Prize for Literature, which the author accepted via video link while in detention.
Boochani said writing had helped him survive, observing: “I could keep my identity and keep my humanity. This system is designed to take our identity, designed to reduce us to numbers.”
Last November he was granted a one-month visa to go to New Zealand to speak at a special event organised by WORD Christchurch. He remains in New Zealand.
The feature adaptation was initiated by writer and producer Ákos Armont and Waddington for Aurora Films, later joined by Hoodlum Entertainment.
“We were gripped by Behrouz’s incredible book and have been in discussions with Ákos and Antony for some time,” Hoodlum’s Nathan Mayfield tells IF.
“Hoodlum had produced the VR documentary Inside Manus for SBS, which introduced us to the tragedy of Manus Island. We felt that No Friends But The Mountains would make such a compelling feature film.”
Greenspan said: “Behrouz’s story is highly important and deeply moving. It is our goal to produce the film as an international co-production and share it with as many people around the world as possible.”
Waddington added: “Mountains is a defining tale for our time: not just of Australia, but how the world deals with refugees. Funny at times, it’s overwhelmingly a story of triumph over despair.”
The plan is to shoot in mid-2021, primarily in Australia. No creative team has been attached yet. Hoodlum’s first-look deal with ABC Studios International is still intact despite the axing of the London-based unit headed by Keli Lee.
Armont made his feature writing and directing debut on Brabham, a feature doc on Formula 1 champion Jack Brabham and his son’s quest to defy the odds in the competitive world of international motor sport.
Sweetshop & Green was founded last year as a joint venture between global TVC production company Sweetshop and Israeli producer Greenspan’s Green Productions with a remit to produce films and TV dramas for the international market.
George and Greenspan are at the European Film Market in Berlin seeking more partners and finance.