Cohen Media Buys Marco Bellocchio’s Cannes Competition Film ‘Kidnapped’ for North America (EXCLUSIVE)

Cohen Media Group has scooped rights to “Kidnapped,” the latest movie by revered Italian master Marco Bellocchio, which world premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. The drama reconstructs the true tale of Edgardo Mortara, a young Jewish boy who was kidnapped and forcibly raised as a Christian in 19th-century Italy.

Described by as a “handsomely mounted period drama,” “Kidnapped” opens in 1858, in the Jewish quarter of Bologna, where the Pope’s soldiers burst into the home of the Mortara family. By order of the cardinal, they have come to take Edgardo, their seven-year-old son. The child had been secretly baptized by his nurse as a baby, and the papal law is unquestionable: he must receive a Catholic education.

Edgardo’s parents, distraught, will do anything to get their son back. The Mortaras are supported by public opinion and the international Jewish community, but the Church and the Pope will not agree to return the child.

The deal was negotiated by Laura Nacher, head of sales operations at The Match Factory; and Robert Aaronson, senior VP at CMG.

Nacher said, “Marco Bellocchio’s latest is a powerful and important story that will resonate with American audiences.”

Added Aaronson, “Marco Bellocchio has been revered on the world cinema stage for decades, and we are thrilled to bring to audiences this stirring work by a true master.”

During Cannes, Bellocchio spoke to about the film’s genesis, saying he “was struck by this story after reading a book about Edgardo Mortara written by a rather conservative Catholic.”

“The book traces the journey of the conversion to Catholicism of this child who is kidnapped after starting his religious journey as an Orthodox Jew. It’s a conversion that is initially forced. But Edgardo does not change his mind after Rome is freed from Papal domain. Instead, he becomes a priest and then a missionary to the end of his days,” Bellocchio said. The story was also previously circled by Steven Spielberg, who had announced in 2016 that he would make a drama about Mortara. Spielberg had even started scouting locations in Italy before eventually abandoning the project.

“Kidnapped” bowed in Italian cinemas on the heels of its Cannes premiere and took the third place at the local box office over its first weekend. As , the film has trigged a hot debate in Italy. An open letter was penned by Rome’s Chief Rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, who said, “The official defenses of Pius IX and his persecutory apparatus that are surfacing these days from many parts of the Catholic world, are, if not astonishing, at least worrying.” The Vatican City newspaper, meanwhile, reacted to the debate by saying that the abduction of Edgardo Mortara “could no longer repeat itself.”

“Kidnapped” was produced by Beppe Caschetto and Simone Gattoni at IBC Movie and Kavac Film with Rai Cinema, in co-production with Ad Vitam Production in France and The Match Factory in Germany. The film was also backed by Canal+, Ciné+, Bayerischer Rundfunk and Arte France Cinéma, in association with Arte and Film-und Medienstiftung NRW. “Kidnapped” also received support from MIC Ministero della Cultura and the Emilia-Romagna region through the Emilia–Romagna Film Commission.

It marks Cohen Media’s second acquisition out of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, following Martin Provost’s period film “Bonnard, Pierre and Marthe.”

Nick Vivarelli contributed to this report.

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