WASHINGTON (April 30, 2009)—National Geographic Entertainment and Imagenation Abu Dhabi will join Exclusive Media Group and Spitfire Pictures in producing “The Way Back,” written and directed by six-time Academy Award nominee Peter Weir (“Master and Commander,” “The Truman Show,” “Dead Poets Society”). In October 2008 National Geographic Entertainment and Imagenation Abu Dhabi announced a fund that committed $100 million to develop, produce, finance and acquire 10 to 15 films over the following five years. “The Way Back” is their first joint effort utilizing this fund.
Jim Sturgess (“21,” “Across the Universe”), Academy Award nominee Ed Harris (“A Beautiful Mind,” “Apollo 13”), Oscar® nominee Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement,” Peter Jackson’s upcoming “Lovely Bones”) and Golden Globe winner Colin Farrell (“In Bruges,” “Miami Vice”) will star in this epic adventure, which is inspired by Slavomir Rawicz’s acclaimed novel, “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom,” as well as from other real-life accounts.
“The Way Back” chronicles the escape of a small group of multi-national prisoners from a Siberian gulag in 1940 and their epic journey over thousands of miles across five hostile countries. Principal photography has started in Bulgaria.
Spitfire Pictures is producing for parent company Exclusive Media Group, the global film entertainment group, which is backed by the strategic investment group Cyrte Investments and combines Spitfire, London-based Hammer Films and Exclusive Film Distribution. Exclusive Film Distribution is handling worldwide sales and distribution for the film.
Edward Borgerding, CEO of Imagenation Abu Dhabi and Abu Dhabi Media Company, said, “We couldn’t think of a better and more prestigious first project for the partnership between National Geographic and Imagenation Abu Dhabi. Peter Weir is one of the great directors working today. We are very excited about this movie with its wonderful cast and riveting story of human endurance and love for freedom.”
National Geographic Films Chairman Jake Eberts said, “Slavomir Rawicz’s book that inspired ‘The Way Back’ has long been considered an adventurer’s adventure, beloved by explorers, historians and other writers. It is one of the great escape stories of all time. Translated into 25 languages, it has the classic man-against-nature structure, but it also deals with man’s inhumanity toward one another, man’s capacity to help other men, and man’s ability to forgive but not to forget. It has thrills and excitement in epic and unusual settings, but ultimately it is about strong-willed people fighting to connect with each other while yearning for peace and home.”
Exclusive Media Group’s Co-Chairman and Co-CEO Nigel Sinclair said, “My colleague Guy East, Jake Eberts and I have a long and happy history of working on movies together, and we are proud and excited to have Tim Kelly and Adam Leipzig at National Geographic and Mohamed Khalaf Al-Mazrouei and Edward Borgerding at Imagenation Abu Dhabi as partners on Peter’s film.”
About National Geographic Entertainment
National Geographic Entertainment (NGE), which will release this year’s Sundance favorite “Amreeka” in the fall, combines into a single operating group National Geographic’s Cinema Ventures, Films, Kids Entertainment, Home Entertainment and Music & Radio. NGE is part of National Geographic Global Media, bringing together all of National Geographic’s editorial platforms in order to streamline collaboration and further support the Society’s mission. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” National Geographic works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 360 million people worldwide each month through magazines, books, digital media, and television, radio, music and film. It funds more than 250 scientific research, exploration and conservation projects each year and supports an education program combating geography illiteracy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com.
About Imagenation Abu Dhabi
Imagenation Abu Dhabi is a wholly owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media Company, which launched on Sept. 3, 2008. The company will develop, finance and produce full-length feature films and digital content for Arabic and global markets.
From its base in Abu Dhabi, the company has established partnerships with high-profile, internationally based producers to develop and produce content for distribution internationally, in addition to supporting Middle East filmmakers and Arab film production.
Mohamed Khalaf Al-Mazrouei is the chairman of Imagenation Abu Dhabi, and Edward Borgerding is the chief executive officer. Stefan Brunner is the company’s chief financial officer.
On Sept. 10, 2008, Imagenation Abu Dhabi and Participant Media formed a $250 million fund to finance a slate of feature films. On Oct. 11, 2008, Imagenation Abu Dhabi announced a $100 million joint venture with National Geographic Films, followed by the announcement of a $250 million partnership with Hyde Park Entertainment on Nov. 2, 2008.
For more information, visit http://www.imagenationabudhabi.com.
About Exclusive Media Group
Formed by strategic investment group Cyrte Investments in May 2008, Exclusive Media Group (EMG) is the parent company of Los Angeles-based Spitfire Pictures and the legendary British studio Hammer, which now has a combined share holder equity and bank facility in excess of $100 million. The company is run by Nigel Sinclair, Guy East and Simon Oakes, with Sinclair and Oakes serving as co-chairmen and co-CEOs (out of Los Angeles and London respectively), and East as president and chairman of the sales and distribution operation.
Under EMG, Spitfire and Hammer operate as two separate production entities. EMG aims to produce six to eight films per year and to acquire additional pictures for worldwide distribution through its London-based subsidiary Exclusive Film Distribution. The group also develops projects for television and digital platforms.
EMG has over 300 titles in the combined Hammer and Spitfire libraries and will pursue an aggressive library acquisition policy. The Hammer library is noted for its remake potential, and the company is in discussions with A-list writers and directors to revive and re-imagine some of its highly touted titles.
Cyrte Investments is part of Delta Lloyd Asset Management, one of the Netherlands major asset managers, which in turn is majority-owned by London Stock Exchange-listed Aviva plc, one of the world’s largest insurance companies.
For more information, visit http://www.exclusivemedia.com.
About Spitfire Pictures
Spitfire Pictures is a Los Angeles-based production subsidiary of Exclusive Media Group, with specialized feature film and documentary divisions. Spitfire has a very active slate of films in pre-production and development with several highly successful writers, including Bill Broyles, Stuart Beattie, Christopher McQuarrie, Justin Haythe, Craig Zahler, Max Makowski and Christopher Cleveland. Projects set up at Spitfire include the biographical picture about the life of legendary The Who drummer Keith Moon, and an adaptation of the bestseller “Moral Hazard” to be directed by Philip Noyce. Spitfire is planning a 2009 release for its latest thriller “Possession,” starring Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Spitfire’s acclaimed documentary division has produced several heralded films, including “Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who” and the award-winning “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” directed by Martin Scorsese, and aims to deliver three to four documentaries per year. The company recently teamed with music legend Billy Joel and Maritime Pictures to produce the feature documentary film “The Last Play at Shea,” documenting Joel’s historic concerts at Shea Stadium on July 16 and 18, 2008. Barry Blaustein’s “Guys N’ Divas: Battle of the High School Musicals” will be released by Lionsgate and Showtime, while Spitfire has teamed again with Martin Scorsese, who will direct “The Untitled George Harrison Project” documentary.
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