Alexander Rodnyansky’s AR Content – in partnership with Kevin Macdonald, an Oscar winner with “One Day in September,” and Rosanne Korenberg – has tapped Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning director Rory Kennedy, best known for “Last Days in Vietnam,” to direct its untitled documentary centering on a little-known refugee crisis immediately preceding World War II.
The film will center on the voyage of the transatlantic liner St. Louis in 1939, which was carrying Jews fleeing Nazi but was turned away by Cuba and the U.S. and forced to return to Europe. Later, 254 of its passengers died in the Holocaust. The film will compare that episode with today’s global refugee crisis.
Alongside Rodnyansky – who was Oscar-nominated for “Leviathan” and “Loveless” – Macdonald and Korenberg, Kennedy and the documentary’s writer Mark Bailey, a WGA nominee for “Last Days in Vietnam” and a three-time Emmy nominee, will produce the film under their production banner Moxie Films.
Rodnyansky first announced the doc late last year when AR Content partnered with Macdonald and Korenberg to help bring the story to light. It was, in part, the international community’s unwillingness to accept Jewish refugees that emboldened Hitler to enact his “Final Solution.” After the atrocities of the Holocaust, several measures were put in place to protect those escaping persecution. “Despite this, history seems to be repeating itself, with current vulnerable groups fleeing war-torn regions only to find a hostile, indifferent, and xenophobic Western world,” according to a statement from AR Content.
Kennedy’s “Last Days in Vietnam” (2014), which told the story of the Vietnam War’s final weeks, received an Oscar nomination for best documentary feature. Kennedy won the Emmy for Outstanding Nonfiction Special with her film “Ghosts of Abu Ghraib” (2007), which chronicled the American abuse of detainees in Abu Ghraib prison, in Iraq, in 2003. Bailey co-wrote both features, and has begun writing the currently untitled refugee doc.
“Ten years ago I made ‘The Fence,’ a film about the wall going up along the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Kennedy. “Since then I have watched in dismay as anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric has accelerated, while resettlement quotas have been slashed and barriers have risen up across the globe. Every day the refugee crisis grows more dire. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to make what I feel is a very important and timely film.”
Macdonald and Korenberg have been leading a director search since the project’s announcement. “With the talented team of Rory and Mark on board, we will be able to explore and empathize as well as show possible solutions to the ever-growing number of refugees worldwide,” said Korenberg.
“Of course I knew Rory’s films and reputation as a director,” added Rodnyansky. “But when we sat down to discuss her vision, I was sure that Rory and Mark were the right team. Like my own initial ideas about the film, they wanted to craft something very opinionated and sharp, something that would hold the Western world accountable for its inaction and ask the important questions about how best to move forward. Refugees and mass migration will continue to be one of the 21st century’s most defining developments, and how we respond will be important, and remembered.”
AR Content is a Los Angeles-based script development company. The firm’s slate of in-development projects includes “Debriefing the President,” based on the book about the first CIA agent to identify and interrogate Saddam Hussein, to be directed by Ziad Doueiri (“The Insult,” “The Attack”), currently being written by Daniel Stiepleman (“On the Basis of Sex”). AR Content’s TV projects include the Kornel Mundruczo series “Everybody’s Woman,” about the evolution of the European porn industry at the dawn of social media; a political assassination anthology series; and a to-be-announced drama series about animal poaching.