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The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the World’s Rich and Powerful Hide their Money: By Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer
The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the World’s Rich and Powerful Hide their Money: By Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer

Another Panama Papers movie in the pipeline

Netflix has bought the exclusive rights to a book on the Panama Papers, becomes second prospective production on topic

Netflix has acquired exclusive rights to the book The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the World’s Rich and Powerful Hide their Money by German journalists Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer. Producers John Wells and Claire Rudnick Polstein are on board, with no director decided yet. Producer, director and writer Wells is known for producing TV series ER, The West Wing and Shameless, and directing the film August: Osage County.

Obermaier and Obermayer write for the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, which was the newspaper that initially published the story on the leaked documents. Their access to Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca’s 11.5 million documents was gained through an anonymous whistleblower. The journalists released the documents in collaboration with The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), after it was vetted by them. With over 400 journalists working together to sort through 2.6 terabytes of data, this was one of the biggest collaborative projects in history and provided the world with secret information on the labyrinthine money routes of offshore tax havens used by the world’s rich and famous. ICIJ’s findings were revealed in parts, with the earliest news released in April this year.

This is the second film on the Panama Papers that has been announced this month. An adaptation of the upcoming book Secrecy World by investigative journalist Jake Bernstein, who was a part of the ICIJ, will be directed and produced by Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven, Traffic). The production rights for the book were bought by Lawrence Grey’s Grey Matter Productions, and Michael Sugar’s production house Anonymous Content, which produced Spotlight, will also be involved. For this currently untitled project, Soderbergh is teaming up with scriptwriter/producer Scott Burns, who has previously worked with Soderbergh on projects such as Contagion and Side Effects. Author Bernstein won a Pulitzer Prize in 2011 for his book The Wall Street Money Machine.

Netflix is hoping that its access to the duo of Obermaier and Obermayer will make their film more compelling than the Soderbergh project, since the German journalists were the only people to speak to the anonymous whistleblower.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen multiple production houses hoping to produce movies on the same topic: there were many Wikileaks movies developed, but finally only one, The Fifth Estate, ended up being made—and it was a flop. The race tends to die down after one house begins production. Production houses vying for the rights to in-depth books on current affairs is unsurprising given the recent critical and commercial success of films such as The Big Short, about the 2007 housing crisis, and Spotlight, on the Boston Globe paedophile exposé.

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