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Colin Callender’s Playground to Produce Series About Europe’s Refugee Crisis ‘New Odyssey’

LONDON — Colin Callender’s production company Playground has secured the rights to Guardian journalist Patrick Kingsley’s book “The New Odyssey – The Story of Europe’s Refugee Crisis.” The company is developing the property as a major TV drama series though its U.K. office, which is headed by managing director Louise Pedersen and creative director Sophie Gardiner.

Kingsley, who was named foreign affairs journalist of the year at the British Journalism Awards last year, was appointed in 2015 by the Guardian as its migration correspondent — the first such post at a newspaper — and the book is the result of his work.

Throughout last year, Kingsley traveled to 17 countries along the migrant trail, meeting hundreds of refugees making their journey across deserts, seas and mountains to reach Europe. His book is an account of those travelers’ stories — explaining who they are, what keeps them going, and how they do it. But it is also an account of all those who help or exploit them along the way.

Kingsley sought to humanize the crisis by telling the story from the inside. His wrote about riding trains with Hashem al-Souki, as he traveled from Syria to Sweden; drinking illicit moonshine with the kingpin smuggler Hajj, an obese Libyan law graduate who makes millions from his new trade; or walking with Fattemah Abu al-Rouse, the pregnant Syrian teacher who fears losing her baby as she treks through the Balkans.

Gardiner said: “‘The New Odyssey’ is an epic piece of journalism that provides an intimate account of the people caught up in one of the biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II. We believe this can be television at its best — powerful, emotional and compelling storytelling that explores the complexities and human dimensions of the biggest story of our time.”

Playground is a New York- and London-based film, television and theater company that was founded in 2012 by Callender. The company set up its London office in 2015 to expand its presence in the U.K.

Recent productions include six-part miniseries adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s “Wolf Hall,” starring Mark Rylance, Damian Lewis, Claire Foy and Jonathan Pryce for the BBC and PBS’ “Masterpiece,” and the television adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s “The Dresser,” starring Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins and directed by Richard Eyre for the BBC and Starz.

Playground is in pre-production in the U.K. on Kenneth Lonergan’s four-part miniseries adaptation of E.M Forster’s classic novel “Howards End” for the BBC.

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