Docs

Otto Bell to helm documentary adaptation of “The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu”

The Eagle Huntress filmmaker and CNN chief creative officer Otto Bell is to provide a feature-length documentary adaptation of Joshua Hammer’s New York Times bestseller The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And ...
August 28, 2019

The Eagle Huntress filmmaker and CNN chief creative officer Otto Bell is to provide a feature-length documentary adaptation of Joshua Hammer’s New York Times bestseller The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts.

Hammer’s book, published in April 2017 by Simon & Schuster, details the efforts of a group of librarians as they journeyed across the Sahara Desert to track down and salvage thousands of ancient Islamic manuscripts from destruction at the hands of terrorist organization Al Qaeda.

Titled The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu, the documentary will focus on the 300 days of jihadi occupation – from April 2012 to January 2013 – when Timbuktu, Mali, fell under the occupation of Al Qaeda. The film will recount the story of a group of scholars, led by Abdel Kader Haidara, that transform themselves into a roving gang of smugglers who transport thousands of texts to safety across 600 miles of war-torn desert.

The project will utilize original vignettes shot on location, as well as jihadi content filmed by Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, news reel archive footage, as well as footage from citizen journalists who filmed during the occupation.

Los Angeles-based Argent Pictures, the film finance and production shingle run by Jill Ahrens, Ryan Ahrens and Ben Renzo, will finance and produce the film with British production outfit Cove Pictures’ Heather Rabbatts and Paul Sowerbutts. Argent partners Drew Brees, Tony Parker, Michael Finley and Derrick Brooks will executive produce. Idil Ibrahim also serves as producer.

CAA Media Finance reps North American rights.

“The story of the librarians and the hundreds of thousands of books they sought to preserve is a truly heroic act,” said Argent’s Jill Ahrens, in a statement. “We all need more stories like this which will not only inspire audiences around the world but reinforce how critical the preservation of historical identity and heritage is for current and future generations.”

“This band of scholars made history by saving history,” added Ibrahim. “Sadly, Mali remains under constant threat. We hope the film will provide a cause for celebration while also shining a light on Africa’s rich, but all-to-often silenced heritage and global intellectual contributions.”

About The Author
Senior staff writer Frederick Blichert comes to realscreen with a background as a journalist and freelance film critic. He has previously written for VICE, Paste Magazine, Senses of Cinema, Xtra, Canadian Cinematographer and elsewhere. He holds a Master of Arts in film studies from Carleton University and a Master of Journalism from the University of British Columbia.

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