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Helmer sprints to ‘Sahara’ race doc

Moll set for LivePlanet's 'Running' pic

A correction was made to this article on June 12, 2006.

LivePlanet has set Oscar winner James Moll to direct and produce “Running the Sahara,” a documentary about three men who attempt to become the first humans to run coast to coast across the Sahara Desert.

Matt Damon will narrate the film and exec produce with LivePlanet CEO Larry Tanz and senior veep Marc Joubert.

The film will follow the tracks of three accomplished marathoners: American Charlie Engle, who won a race across the Gobi Desert and another through the Amazon jungle; Canadian Ray Zahab, who has raced across part of the Sahara and Niger’s Tenere Desert; and Taiwanese runner Kevin Lin, who recently won a 150-mile race across the Atacama Desert in Chile — a trek that only half the runners entered could complete.

Moll, who directed Oscar-winning docu “The Last Days” and is a founding exec director of Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, recently made a deal to make his dramatic feature debut on “Death of Innocence,” a pic about Emmett Till, the 14-year-old whose 1955 murder by Mississippi racists helped spark the civil rights movement. He’ll first do the doc, which he brought to LivePlanet’s Tanz after they previously attempted a Bravo pilot on professional poker players.

Aside from working on “Project Greenlight,” Tanz exec produced the upcoming pic “First Descent,” a snowboarding pic to be distributed by Universal in December. Tanz said “Running the Sahara” will be privately financed and will exploit sponsorship opportunities to tie the film into the One Campaign being waged to end poverty in Africa.

“The film will have amazing visuals in seven countries and nine different ecosystems, from thousand-foot sand dunes to mountains and lakes,” Tanz said. “It’s a man vs. nature story, but it’s also about the African countries and people they encounter along the way. Aside from creating awareness of cultures in Africa, we believe the charity component of this film can make a difference. People will be able to follow the progress of the runners on the Web, and can pledge pennies per mile. We are already in discussions with beverage companies about making donations of clean water to some of these regions.”

Shooting will begin in January.

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