Cannes: Freed Soldier Joshua French Gets Film Treatment

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Joshua French

The Norwegian-British solider was released Wednesday after eight years in a prison in Congo on charges of murder.

The harrowing story of Joshua French, the Norwegian-British solider released this week after eight years in a Congolese prison, is getting the big-screen treatment.

Marius Holst (Cross My Heart — and Hope to Die) will direct Congo, which Headhunters producer Friland Film will produce. TrustNordisk has picked up international sales rights for the project and is shopping it to buyers in Cannes.

French and fellow ex-soldier Tjostolv Moland went to Congo with the ambitious plan to set up a private security firm in Africa. But in 2009 they were arrested on suspicion of killing their Congolese driver. They claimed to have been ambushed by a gunman, who had killed the driver. The pair were found guilty on multiple charges and sentenced to death. Evidence of a fixed trial — British charity Reprieve found witnesses for the prosecution were paid $5,000 each to appear — led to the verdict being overturned, but it was reinstated following a retrial.

In 2013, French woke up in a Kinshasa prison to find Moland dead. A Norwegian-Congolese probe ruled the death a suicide, but Congolese prosecutors put French on trial for Moland’s murder and convicted him, sentencing him to life imprisonment. After nearly a decade of campaigning by his family and the Norwegian government, French was finally released this week.

”We have chosen to let all the known facts and very comprehensive research form the basis of the dramatic narrative in the upcoming feature Congo,” Holst said in a statement.

“A man was brutally killed while at work in the Congolese jungle. We do not know the truth of what happened, but two young Norwegian men — his employers — were convicted of the murder,” added Sveinung Golimo, executive director for production and development at the Norwegian Film Institute, which is backing the film with $1.7 million. “Today, only one of them is still alive, and he is marked for life. It is very demanding to make a feature film inspired by the story of Joshua French and the late Tjostolv Moland.”

Nordisk Film Distribution has picked up the film for release in Scandinavian territories.