August Diehl (“A Hidden Life”) is set to star in Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov‘s film adaptation of the best-selling French novel “The Disappearance of Josef Mengele” which will start shooting in early June.
Produced by Charles Gillibert at CG Cinema (“Annette”) and Ilya Stewart at Hype Studios (“Tchaikovsky’s Wife”), the film will star Diehl as Mengele, the notorious Nazi doctor who found refuge in South America at the end of WWII and was never captured. He died in Brazil in 1979 without having been judged for his crimes. The novel, penned by Olivier Guez, won the prestigious Renaudot Prize in 2017 in France and was published in more than 30 countries.
The long-gestating project will mark Serebrennikov‘s follow up to his upcoming movie “Limonov,” as well as “Tchaikovsky’s Wife” and “Leto,” both of which competed at the Cannes Film Festival in 2022 and 2018.
A popular German actor, Diehl previously worked with Quentin Tarantino on ‘Inglourious Basterds,’ Terrence Malick on ‘A Hidden Life’ and Raoul Peck on ‘The Young Karl Marx.” He was chosen by Serebrennikov to play Mengele after a long casting process across Europe.
The daring movie will focus on Mengele’s fugitive years, spanning from Paraguay to the Brazilian jungle, and will be told from the man’s point of view.
Upon its publication, the novel sparked debates because it highlighted the close bonds of many South American governments with high-ranking Nazi officials. Serebrennikov, who previously tackled fascism in his 2016 film “The Student,” which played at Cannes, penned the adaptation and collaborated with Guez to pin down the historical details.
“Kirill Serebrennikov is one of Russia’s greatest contemporary directors and we’re very proud to have been accompanying him on this project for the last four years,” said Gillibert, who optioned the rights to the book after it was published.
Gillibert said Serebrennikov, who is passionate about the novel, was able to deliver a “singular take on it.”
“Telling Mengele’s history through his own eyes is a difficult gamble but Kirill was able to find the right angle, telling the metaphysical escape of a man haunted by his crimes and a hidden story about Europe which resonates with present times in a powerful way,” continued Gillibert, who was recently celebrated at the American French Film Festival (formerly COLCOA) where CG Cinema presented Lola Quivoron’s “Rodeo” and Alain Guiraudie’s “Nobody’s Hero.”
Stewart, who is Serebrennikov’s regular producer through his banner Hype Studios, said he was struck by Guez’s novel and wants the film to “not only tell a dark story, but also also a story which, in an alarming way, has become so universal and pertinent to contemporary history.” The producer, who relocated to Europe after the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, said the movie will be an “exploration of the root and essence of evil, but also its inevitable downfall.”
“Since our first collaboration with Kirill a number of years ago on ‘The Student,’ he committed to telling stories for an international audiences and he’s always been ideally positioned to do that because he’s a world citizen and pioneer of world culture,” Stewart continued.
Serebrennikov, like Stewart, left Russia shortly after the country’s invasion of Ukraine and is currently based in Berlin. He was previously stuck in Russia for several years due to a travel ban which notably prevented him from presenting his last two movies at the Cannes Film Festival.
The director recently presented his adaptation of Anton Chekhov’s play “The Black Monk” at the Avignon theater festival in France over the summer, and wrapped the shoot of “Limonov.”
He’s now ready to start pre-production on “The Disappearance” which is expected to be his biggest project to date. The movie will shoot in South America, mainly in Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico, as well as in Germany.
CG Cinema and Hype Studios are producing the film with co-producers Mélanie Biessy at Scala Films, Felix von Boehm at Lupa Film, and Julio Chavezmontes at Piano (“Triangle of Sadness”).
Besides “Rodeo” which played at Cannes, CG Cinema’s recent credits include Pietro Marcello’s “Scarlet” which played at the New York Film Festival. Gillibert is also a shareholder in Les Films du Losange which will distribute Mia Hansen-Love’s “One Fine Morning” with Lea Seydoux, and Alice Diop’s Venice prizewinning film “Saint Omer” in France. The latter represents France in the international feature film race at the Oscars and just played at the New York Film Festival.
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