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Raif Badawi, the imprisoned Saudi dissident whose cause has been embraced by international rights groups and politicians, is getting the biopic treatment.
German production company Knudsen & Streuber has optioned the film rights to Badawi’s story, as told by his wife, Ensaf Haidar, in her book Raif Badawi, The Voice of Freedom: My Husband, Our Story.
A social activist and blogger, Badawi made headlines worldwide in 2014 when he was arrested and charged with, among other things, “insulting Islam” and apostasy. He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment and 1,000 lashes by the Saudi government.
Haidar and the couple’s three children had successfully emigrated to Canada shortly before Badawi’s arrest, and she took up his cause, campaigning with Amnesty International for his release.
Badawi’s story has struck a chord, particularly in Europe, where the European Parliament last year awarded him the Sakharov Prize for human rights. He was also a nominee for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize. Protesters have staged demonstrations across Europe demanding his immediate release.
Haidar’s book is also the story of the couple’s unlikely and in Saudi Arabia’s strict religious society forbidden romance, which began with an accidental phone call. The German producers said the couple’s love story will be a major focus of the film adaptation.
“Rarely has a love story moved me as much as Ensaf and Raif´s,” said producer Tom Streuber. “In a strictly regimented daily life that categorically divides two worlds – that of men from that of women – Ensaf and Raif are fighting for a love that transcends every boundary, even those between the two of them. Their private realm ultimately becomes political. A genuine drama unfolds as though Romeo and Juliet had risen again, this time in Saudi Arabia.”
Berlin-based Knudsen & Streuber are best known for their feature Mercy, starring Jürgen Vogel and Birgit Minichmayr, which was a competition title in the 2012 Berlin International Film Festival.
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