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Magnolia Pictures has picked up North American rights to A Compassionate Spy, the new documentary from Oscar-nominated director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Life Itself) from Participant.
The film, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year, follows the real-life spy story of Manhattan Project physicist Ted Hall, who infamously provided nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. The story is told through the perspective of his loving wife Joan, who protected his secret for decades.
Recruited in 1944 as an 18-year-old Harvard undergraduate to help Robert Oppenheimer and his team create a bomb, Hall was the youngest physicist on the Manhattan Project, but didn’t share his colleagues’ excitement after the successful detonation of the world’s first atomic bomb. Concerned that the new weapon would give the U.S. a post-war monopoly on global power and could lead to nuclear catastrophe, Hall began passing key information about the bomb’s construction to the Soviet Union, allowing them to build their own atomic arsenal.
After the war, Hall met, fell in love with and married Joan, a fellow student who shared his passion for classical music and socialist causes. Hall shared his secret with Joan, who kept it for decades. The pair raised a family while living under a cloud of suspicion and years of FBI surveillance and intimidation.
“Ted Hall’s legacy is timely and nuanced, and Steve James’ incredible talent makes for a really thrilling telling of a vital story,” said Participant CEO David Linde. “A Compassionate Spy is a reminder of how the past is always present and how the specter of nuclear war lingers in our collective consciousness. Magnolia is a great partner and we are looking forward to working with them again to bring it to audiences.”
Magnolia is planning a theatrical bow for A Compassionate Spy and will release the film in theaters later this year.
Presented by Participant, A Compassionate Spy is a Mitten Media and Kartemquin Films production produced by Mark Mitten, Dave Lindorff, and James. Executive Producers are Jeff Skoll, Diane Weyermann, Tim Horsburgh and Gordon Quinn.
The deal was negotiated by Magnolia executive vp Dori Begley and senior vp of acquisitions John Von Thaden, Participant’s Liesl Copland, executive vp content strategy & sales, Adam Macy, senior counsel, business & legal affairs, and Rob Williams, senior vp, content strategy & sales; with Jason Ishikawa at Cinetic on behalf of the filmmakers.
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