Marco Bellocchio, who is in Cannes with TV series “Esterno Notte” about the kidnapping and assassination of former Italian premier Aldo Moro by Red Brigades terrorists, is set to return behind the camera in late June.
The veteran Italian auteur and Cannes aficionado will reconstruct the true tale of Edgardo Mortara, a young Jewish boy who was kidnapped and forcibly raised as a Christian in 19th-century Italy.
Mortara was a young Jewish boy living in Bologna, Italy, who in 1858, after being secretly baptized, was forcibly taken from his family to be raised as a Christian. His parents’ struggle to free their son became part of a larger political battle that pitted the papacy against forces of democracy and Italian unification. Mortara went on to become a priest in the Augustinian order.
It’s a story that Steven Spielberg had his eye on, having announced in 2016 that he would make a drama about Mortara based on a book by U.S. academic David Kertzer.
Bellocchio, as previously announced, is instead basing his pic, titled “La conversione” (“The Conversion”), on first-hand documents. Spielberg’s project reportedly lost steam after he was unable to find the right child actor to play the young Jewish boy.
But according to Bellocchio that’s not what derailed it.
“I have trouble believing that was the problem,” said Bellocchio.
“My impression is it was a political problem. This story, even though it’s set 170 years ago, can be perceived as re-igniting the conflict between Jews and Catholics at a time when they are seeking peace, not conflict. And Spielberg has such a great stature in the Jewish world,” he added.
That said, even Bellocchio hasn’t found the kid actor for his film yet.
While promoting his 2019 film “The Traitor” in the U.S., Bellocchio learned that Spielberg had given up on the project which he discussed with “Traitor” star Pierfrancesco Favino, who will have a role in “Conversion,” though the rest of the film’s cast is being kept under wraps.
Italian production companies RAI Cinema, Beppe Caschetto’s IBC and Simone Gattoni’s Kavac Film, the team behind “The Traitor” — which Sony Pictures Classics released in the U.S. — are producing “The Conversion” which is being mounted as an international co-production with several still unspecified partners.