Screen Gems mines hostage drama

Simon Brand in negotiations to direct

Screen Gems is gunning to be the first out of the gate with a film based on the recent headline-making Colombian hostage rescue.

“Operation Checkmate” will be told from the point of view of the Colombian military rescuers, who infiltrated the intelligence network of FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and freed Ingrid Betancourt and 14 others. The final 22 minutes of the film will unfold in real time, depicting the dramatic release as the rescuers tricked the kidnappers into thinking they were a humanitarian group.

L.A.-based Colombian helmer Simon Brand is in negotiations to direct “Operation Checkmate” for the Sony genre label.

Vertigo Entertainment’s Doug Davison and Roy Lee, who brought the package into Screen Gems, are attached to produce the film alongside Anadale Pictures’ Sergio Aguero. Alejandro Arango Gomez, who is in negotiations to produce, represents Colombia’s RCN-TV, which will have an equity position in the film.

“Operation Checkmate” will receive the cooperation of the Colombian government and have access to RCN footage that was never made public.

Screen Gems, which is looking to tap a writer for the project, would leapfrog a number of other projects based on the rescue that are coalescing. CAA reps Betancourt and is poised to handle a potential book based on her life. UTA is shopping film rights to the forthcoming Knopf book “Into the Jungle,” which is being written by documentarians Victoria Bruce, Karin Hayes and Jorge Enrique Botero.

Screen Gems is in discussions with a French production outfit that would also handle foreign distribution.

Brand, whose directing credits include “The Unknown” for the Weinstein Co., most recently helmed the Spanish-language film “Paraiso Travel.”

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