Interview with Jodie Foster, Tahar Rahim and Kevin Macdonald – Candidates – Deadline

True stories provide fertile ground for award season contenders, but few biographies are as rich and bizarre as that of Mohamedou Ould Salahi, who spent 14 years at Guantanamo Bay on weak terrorism charges while the States United were waging an often directionless war on terrorism. The story of how he was followed and made is quite extraordinary, but the Kevin Macdonald drama Mauritanian instead focuses on Salahi’s fight for liberation, with Tahar Rahim as Salahi, Jodie Foster as defense attorney Nancy Hollander and Shailene Woodley as his assistant Teri Duncan.

Macdonald explains during the STX Entertainment film panel at Deadline’s Contenders Film awards season event that he was approached to adapt the book by Benedict Cumberbatch’s production company, Sunnymarch, and was immediately impressed.

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“The book was kind of a bestseller about four or five years ago,” he says. “I was aware – I had read extracts – but I had not read [the whole thing]. So I read it and thought it was fascinating, because it’s an insider’s view of Guantanamo – a really, very, very personal view of what it is on the ground. But you could also say that Mohamedou was a real writer.

However, Macdonald, who was joined on the panel by Oscar winner Jodie Foster and Rahim, says it took a conversation with Salahi to convince him to go ahead with the project.

“I thought, ‘I don’t know enough about this. I’m not an American, there’s been a lot of talk about the war on terror, and I’m not sure if we need another movie about it. And then I spoke to him – I had a Skype call with him, and he was so fascinating and attractive and warm and very, very funny. And I was like, ‘Oh, this man is amazing. And actually, that’s what made me want to make the movie – he’s such an amazing person and not just a survivor of that experience.

Check back for the panel video.

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