The story of Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy’s 400-day imprisonment and ultimate release—along with colleagues Peter Greste and Baher Mohamed—from an Egyptian jail will be made into feature film.
The three Al Jazeera journalists were arrested in December 2013 and accused of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood Islamist group to spread false news and damage national security.
They were originally sentenced to between seven and 10 years in jail. Greste was released in February of last year and deported. Fahmy and Mohamed were also released pending a retrial and remained in Egypt. They were again found guilty and sentenced to at least three years in prison, but were pardoned and freed last September.
While in prison, their case was championed by advocates of press freedom. Fahmy, in May 2014, was given the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom Award—an occasion he marked with a letter to those celebrating World Press Freedom Day that was smuggled out of his prison cell in Egypt.
The movie will be based on Fahmy’s memoir, The Marriott Cell, which will be published this fall. British film agency the Development Partnership has acquired the rights. Former journalist Michael Bronner will write the script. Egyptian actor Amr Waked, who has previously appeared in Salmon Fishing in Yemen and Syriana, will play the role of Fahmy.
In an interview with Maclean’s, Fahmy says the book and film will reveal for the first time secret negotiations—involving Egypt and other parties he would not name—that led to his release. Fahmy says he and his colleagues were pawns in a bigger fight between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on the one hand, and Qatar—whose government funds Al Jazeera—on the other. “There’s an untold story here,” he said.
The movie does not yet have a director or anticipated release date. In the meantime, Fahmy has returned to Canada and is teaching journalism at the University of British Columbia.