Andrew Levitas (Lullaby) will direct the film based on the book of the same name by Aileen Mioko Smith and Smith, and adapted by David K. Kessler (A Hard Day’s Day). Shoot is due to begin in Japan followed by Serbia in January.
The film will follow the reclusive Smith after his celebrated exploits during World War II as he travels to Japan in the 1970s to fulfill a commission from Life editor Ralph Graves. Armed with only his trusted Nikon camera he goes there to document the Minamata disease scandal: an annihilation of a coastal community by the Chisso Corporation’s negligent mercury poisoning and local police and government cover-ups. The victims’ case against the corporation responsible for the environmental disaster represents one of the biggest payouts of all time, with present day sufferers of Minamata disease still in court seeking compensation.
Minamata is developed by Depp’s production entity Infinitum Nihil and produced by Sam Sarkar (No Place Like Home), Bill Johnson (Killing them Softly) and producer-director Levitas (Georgetown). Jason Forman and Stephen Deuters will executive produce. CAA Media Finance will handle U.S. rights.
Heads of department include cinematographer Benoit Delhomme (The Theory of Everything), production designer Tom Foden (Mirror Mirror) and Kevan Van Thompson (JoJo Rabbit), who line produces and will also be an executive producer.
Levitas said, “Working with Johnny to give voice to those who have been silently suffering is a responsibility we do not take lightly. Much like Eugene Smith in 1971, we could not feel more privileged or humbled to be tasked with the mission of bringing this incredible story to the world.” According to the production, the team has spent time in Minamata meeting some of the victims and their families and the film will be made with their support.
Depp and Levitas are both represented by CAA.