Egyptian-Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy’s upcoming memoir “The Marriott Cell,” about his arrest with two other Al Jazeera English reporters at the Cairo Marriott hotel in December 2013 and the protracted incarceration that followed, is being developed into a feature film by British book-to-film agency The Development Partnership in tandem with Egyptian multi-hyphenate Amr Waked.
On board to pen the screenplay adaptation of Fahmy’s hotly anticipated memoir is Michael Bronner, the former CBS “60 Minutes” producer who more recently co-produced director Paul Greengrass’ “Green Zone,” “Captain Philips,” and “United 93.”
The Al Jazeera case, which became a cause celebre, saw Fahmy (pictured behind bars) and his two colleagues, Australian journalist Peter Greste and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed, spend more than 400 days in Egypt’s infamous Tora prison, also known as Scorpion, on Cairo’s outskirts on trumped-up charges of spreading “false news.” Egyptian prosecutors linked them to supposed student terrorist groups connected with the Muslim Brotherhood, though no evidence was provided during several trials.
Waked, who is Egypt’s biggest international star, is a political activist and producer. His ZAD production shingle shepherded fellow Egyptian director Ibrahim El Batout’s drama “Winter of Discontent” about the events that led up to the Tahrir Square uprising.
Waked intersected with Fahmy when the journo was covering the Arab Spring in Egypt for CNN before becoming Egypt Bureau Chief for Al Jazeera English.
Waked – who played the bemused French narcotics cop in Luc Besson’s “Lucy” – is now poised to play Fahmy during his plight behind bars in the Scorpion penitentiary alongside some of the Middle East’s most hardened Al Qaeda and ISIS extremists.
Waked more recently appeared as an advisor to Mongol King Kublai Khan in TWC/Netflix TV series “Marco Polo.” His previous roles include star turns in “Syriana,” “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” and the BBC’s “House of Saddam” mini-series. He will also appear in upcoming Warner Bros. sci-fi action thriller “Geostorm.”
The Development Partnership is the book-to-film unit of prominent British talent and literary agency The Artists Partnership.
“The Marriot Cell,” which reconstructs the complex geopolitical score-settling between Egypt and Qatar in which the three journalists became pawns, will be published by Penguin Random House Canada in October.
The book will feature a foreword by the international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who was Fahmy’s lawyer during his final trial.
“A feature is going to allow us to relive and dramatically portray what no news reel grasped; one’s inner voice caught in an emotional struggle between lawlessness, failed corporate decisions, and bureaucratic red tape that left us in a vicious Kafquesqe black hole fighting for our lives and that bigger cause of press freedom,” said Fahmy in a statement.
“Mr. Fahmy’s internationally controversial imprisonment gave him unusual access to leading jihadists and insight into what’s happening in the region,” enthused Louise Dennys, executive publisher at Penguin Random House Canada, who acquired world rights to the book. “Combined with his authoritative understanding of the region and worldwide consequences of the increasing violence, it provides a rare window onto the players and their personal and global ambitions, Western governments included,” she added.