NEW YORK — Miramax has paid mid-six figures against a purchase price close to seven figures for “The Brothers Bielski,” a book proposal by Peter Duffy about three Jewish brothers who became heroes by hiding 1,250 Jews from the Nazis in a forest outside Belarus during WWII.
The brothers, whose family was executed by Nazis after the invasion of Poland, eluded capture and set up a forest outpost, putting out word that Jews who made it there would be safe. The brothers kept their word, patrolling the forests on horseback, and leading raids against enemy installations and local collaborators. They managed to conceal themselves and their guests in a village that included a temple, general store and even a theater.
Sale, which had Gotham scouts buzzing and generated numerous bids, comes just after Duffy, a freelance journalist, got a mid-six-figure deal from HarperCollins to write the book with the cooperation of the Bielski family, whom he found living in Brooklyn. Two of the brothers settled there, while the third died not long after the war.
With so much of the film rights business relocating to the West Coast, the movie sale of “The Brothers Bielski” is an example of a Gotham-generated gem. Duffy is a Queens-based journalist who, after stumbling across a reference to “the forest Jews” on a Web site about Poland, tracked down the family, which agreed to tell the little known story.
Duffy wrote an article about their bravery for the New York Times’ city section. Section editor Constance Rosenblum referred Duffy to her New York-based lit agent, Mary Evans. She and Duffy hatched a short proposal and had a bidding battle going before Evans had sent out the missive to all publishing houses. Evans quickly closed a mid-six-figure deal with HarperCollins, where Dan Conaway will edit the book.
Gotham film outposts, including Miramax, Paramount and Joe Roth’s Revolution, quickly became hip to the property, and the bidding began. By the time word circulated to the West Coast, Miramax had closed a deal with Evans, Sylvie Rabineau of Rabineau Wachler and attorney David Colden of Colden McKuin & Frankel.