New York-based specialty distributor Zeitgeist Films has acquired theatrical U.S. rights to potentially hot button docu “Theo Who Lived,” about American journalist Theo Padnos who was kidnapped by Al Qaeda in Syria and held captive for nearly two years in a series of prisons.
Directed by U.S. documaker and producer David Schisgall – known for prostitution-themed “Very Young Girls” and for “The Lifestyle: Group Sex in the Suburbs” – “Theo” features Padnos returning to the Middle East where he “retraces the physical and emotional steps of his harrowing journey,” according to a statement from Zeitgeist.
Padnos (pictured) spoke fluent Arabic and was thus thought by his captors to be a CIA operative after he slipped into Syria to report on the country’s civil war. He was kidnapped in October 2012.
He has written a first-person account of his experience published in a The New York Times Magazine cover story which appeared in October 2014, shortly after his release.
The docu, produced by Amanda Branson Gill (“The Unknown Known”), is said to describe how Padnos’ “fluency, coupled with his remarkable personal expansiveness, also led to an extraordinary engagement with, and understanding of, his captors.” By the time of his release, twenty-two months later, Padnos had become a confidante of Al Qaeda’s top commander in Syria. This is something he also describes in the New York Times piece.
“Theo” will have its U.S. theatrical premiere via Zeitgeist on September 30 at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas in New York, followed by a nationwide release to select cities.
Zeitgeist’s current theatrical releases include New York filmmaker Van Neistat’s “A Space Program,” about a playful simulation of a voyage to Mars by the artist Tom Sachs, and Ada Ushpiz-directed docu “Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt,” about the German-born political philosopher who coined the phrase “the banality of evil.”
The “Theo Who Lived” deal was negotiated by Emily Russo, Co-President of Zeitgeist Films and Andrew Herwitz, President of The Film Sales Company.