As the Cannes Film Festival prepares to screen a new print of Gillo Pontecorvo’s controversial “The Battle of Algiers,” Thunder Road Pictures pro-ducer Basil Iwanyk has inked a deal to remake the film with its star and co-producer, Saadi Yacef.
Commissioned by the Algerian government and banned in France for nearly two decades after its release, “Algiers” won the Golden Lion at the 1965 Venice Film Festival and was nominated for three Academy Awards.
A pseudo-documentary in the form of an anti-colonialist thriller, it traces the rise of the Algerian nationalist movement and its defeat by the French, followed by the resurgence of Arab nationalism that led to Algerian independence in 1962.
Iwanyk said in the current political climate, “Algiers'” allegories are particularly attractive.
“A lot of people are trying to figure out a way to dramatize what’s going on in the Middle East, (but) the situation is so fluid that people are afraid no matter what they do, it will be irrelevant,” he said. “People are afraid to look anti-American and don’t want to touch political issues — it’s way too provocative if they do it wrong. (With ‘Algiers,’) rather than hit it straight on, you’re allowed to start to understand what’s happening around the world.
Iwanyk saw the movie while still a production exec at Warner Bros. where his Thunder Road now has a first-look deal.
Iwanyk said he would attach a writer or director to the project before taking it to Warners and other studios. He said the plan is to open the story by adding an American character, perhaps a journalist or a member of the United Nations.
Yacef, who lives in Algiers, will work with the filmmakers on the remake.
Iwanyk’s remake interest waned when tracing rights proved impossible, but he had fresh hope after screening the film during its recent re-release through Rialto Pictures.
Thunder Road exec Tobin Armbrust did some digging and tracked down Kevin Durst, a management consultant who repped the Yacef family in licensing the re-release.
Harris Tulchin has taken over the film’s licensing and works closely with Studio Canal, which reps the film in France.
Pontecorvo’s pic will be screened Thursday and Saturday in Cannes. The director and the Yacef family will be in attendance.