Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou is set to portray the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege in “Panzi,” a biopic helmed by actress-turned-director Marie-Helene Roux (“Links of Life”).
Mukwege is a prominent Congolese gynecologist who founded the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, where for decades he has been treating thousands of women who have been raped by armed rebels. He was jointly awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize with Iraqi Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad for “their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.”
Hounsou, who is best-known for his Oscar-nominated performances in Jim Sheridan’s “In America” and Edward Zwick’s “Blood Diamond,” will headline “Panzi,” which Cynthia Pinet at Paris-based 1divided Films is producing. The film is currently in casting and is scheduled to start shooting next summer.
1divided acquired the exclusive rights to the life and story of Mukwege and his colleague and friend Guy-Bernard Cadière. The two doctors, who have been working hand-in-hand to end sexual violence against women in Congo, co-wrote the book “Panzi.” Published in 2014, the book chronicles what they have witnessed and experienced at the hospital, with heartfelt testimonies from victims.
“In this country which has been torn by war (six million people have been killed), barbarism consists in using the body of a woman, either a newborn or an adult, and destroy it. With rape, a woman is destroyed and rejected, and a family it annihilated,” said Pinet.
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“Panzi” is the second feature film written and directed by Roux, who was born to French parents in Gabon, and grew up between Africa and France.
Roux’s feature debut, “Links of Life,” will be released in France during the first quarter of 2019. The English-language movie follows the encounter between a 50-year-old Frenchwoman with obsessive-compulsive disorder, who flies to Utah to fulfill a lifelong dream and meets an enigmatic 30-year-old American man.
1Divided Films is a five-year-old company committed to developing films that are socially or politically engaged. The company’s credits include the short film “A Deported Life” and “Shortage of Children,” a drama inspired by true events that took place in 1963 on the island of Reunion.
“Panzi” will mark Hounsou’s return to non-Hollywood material. The actor has a flurry of high-profile U.S. movies in the pipeline, notably the reboot of “Charlie’s Angels,” which Elizabeth Banks is directing.