Two years after John Battsek and Simon Chinn joined forces with their companies Passion Pictures and Red Box Films, they have a healthy development slate and two feature docs, The Imposter and Searching For Sugar Man in the upcoming Sundance line-up.
John Battsek and Simon Chinn are developing a feature documentary based on the New York Times best seller Son Of Hamas as part of their Passion Pictures/Red Box Films producing partnership.
Nadav Schirman is directing the project, The Green Prince, which tells the story of the young Palestinian Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of one of the founders of Hamas, who risked everything to become an Israeli spy. The film is a UK-Israel-Germany co-production, with Schirman producing alongside Battsek and Chinn.
“It’s not a political film, or one about Israel/Palestine – it’s a narrative film and a human drama. A film about trust, betrayal and family that happens against a political backdrop” says Simon Chinn, who produced James Marsh’s documentary Man On Wire for his company Red Box Films before teaming up with Battsek in November 2009.
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The pair have gone on to produce Marsh’s second documentary Project Nim, which is on this year’s Oscar doc shortlist and has just picked up a Producers Guild Of America documentary award nomination.
Their latest projects, The Imposter and Searching For Sugar Man, have also both been selected for the upcoming Sundance Film Festival, with Protagonist handling international sales on both. Searching For Sugar Man has been chosen to open the World Cinema Documentary competition, following in the footsteps of Project Nim which was in the same opening slot last year, winning the Documentary Directing Award.
Directed by Swedish first time feature documentary maker Malik Bendjelloul, Sugar Man follows the story of American singer Rodriguez who mysteriously disappeared and was presumed dead after his album flopped in the States, although his music went on to become a phenomenon in South Africa. The film follows two South African fans as they travel to the States to discover what happened to the singer. It is being backed by Swedish Film Institute and SVT. Chinn will produce with Battsek executive producing.
TV director Bendjelloul developed the project and created a rough cut of the film, before sending it to Chinn. “We get a lot of proposals off our desk. 7/8 of them are filed. Every now and again something pops up on your email and it’s like, ‘Wow.’ It’s so gratifying when you find a genuine new talent. It really makes what we do worth it.”
“We love working with accomplished directors, but there is also a tremendous amount we can bring to a young film maker like Malik. He didn’t know what he had,” adds Battsek who describes Sugar Man as “the most feel good film I’ve ever made.”
Their other Sundance title is The Imposter, a documentary feature directed by Raw Television’s Bart Layton and produced by Raw’s Dimitri Doganis, which they are executive producing.
The film follows the story of Frederic Bourdin, a Frenchman who stole the identity of a missing child and was welcomed back by his family, who believed they had found their son after seven years. It has been financed by Film 4, More4 and A&E Indie Films.
“Our sensibility is to try and find those strong single narratives that have the potential to play like a movie. There are lots of twists and turns in The Imposter and I think audiences will be surprised by it. It’s a great Sundance film,” explains Chinn.
Battsek is also producing Kevin Macdonald’s How I Live Now with Cowboy Films, which is due to begin shooting in the spring, whilst Chinn has projects in development with Film 4, Sky Atlantic and the BBC.
“We’re very much open for business, and always looking for new directors and new material,” says Chinn.