EXCLUSIVE: It is a very real issue around the world, but few realize how bad it is: the political commodity of water and food in third-world countries and how a people either are fed or starve depending on what entity (government/corporate) is in control. Now, Focus Features is looking at this very issue: written by Daniel Kunka and bought for Smokehouse and Spotlight producers Blye Pagon Faust and Nicole Rocklin, the drama is inspired by a number of different stories, including a piece sourced by the Center for Investigative Reporting, to put together a narrative for what is tentatively titled (and aptly named) Trading In Starvation.

This is not the first time Smokehouse has tackled such commanding subject matter. They did so with the 2005 film Syriana (in which George Clooney also starred), which examined the politics of oil and the far-reaching socio-economic effects on a people who are used as pawns in a bigger grab for power. Trading for Starvation would be in a similar vein, only this time the commodity is not oil, but the basic necessities of food and water.

This problem is a matter of life of death for hundreds of thousands of people as they cannot just turn on a spigot and have water run freely in these countries. This matter was even a subject of discussion a few years ago at Herb Allen’s Sun Valley retreat. One CEO I know — the first American engineer to graduate from Tokyo University — had been working in Africa and other poor nations to bring clean water (“Water of Life”) and process it safely into drinking water. The Gates Foundation has also been working in this area.

When you provide clean water, you can eradicate disease. The CEO I knew was doing this via using what is available in abundance in these parts of the world — solar power. But the travels into these poor areas are not without risk as they are indeed confronted with the politics surrounding these commodities, and they see great suffering while those in power literally play with people’s lives. The dichotomy of the two worlds is staggering to witness.

So the subject matter is ripe for a dramatic and politically charged feature film that delves into the very core of some of the human species’ unforgivable and sociopathic reasons behind starvation.

Kunka, who previously wrote 12 Rounds for Renny Harlin, is repped by ICM Partners, Madhouse and Marks Law Group.