Nat-Geo and Abu Dhabi fund Peter Weir film
Chris Forrester

National Geographic and Imagenation, a fast-growing Abu Dhabi production house, are linking to produce ‘The Way Back’, written and directed by six-time Academy Award nominee Peter Weir (“Master and Commander,” “The Truman Show,” “Dead Poets Society”). In October 2008 National Geographic Entertainment and Imagenation Abu Dhabi announced a fund that committed $100m to develop, produce, finance and acquire 10 to 15 films over the next 5 years. “The Way Back” is their first joint effort that taps into this cash.

Jim Sturgess (“21,” “Across the Universe”), Academy Award nominee Ed Harris (“A Beautiful Mind,” “Apollo 13”), Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement,” Peter Jackson’s upcoming “Lovely Bones”) and Golden Globe winner Colin Farrell (“In Bruges,” “Miami Vice”) will star in this epic adventure, which is inspired by Slavomir Rawicz’s acclaimed novel, “The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom,” as well as from other real-life accounts. “The Way Back” tells of the escape of a small group of multi-national prisoners from a Siberian gulag in 1940 and their epic journey over thousands of miles across five hostile countries. Principal photography has started in Bulgaria.

Spitfire Pictures is producing for parent company Exclusive Media Group, which is backed by the strategic investment group Cyrte Investments and combines Spitfire, London-based Hammer Films and Exclusive Film Distribution. Exclusive Film Distribution is handling worldwide sales and distribution for the film.

National Geographic Films is run by Jake Eberts, who says: “Slavomir Rawicz’s book that inspired ‘The Way Back’ has long been considered an adventurer’s adventure, beloved by explorers, historians and other writers. It is one of the great escape stories of all time. Translated into 25 languages, it has the classic man-against-nature structure, but it also deals with man’s inhumanity toward one another, man’s capacity to help other men, and man’s ability to forgive but not to forget. It has thrills and excitement in epic and unusual settings, but ultimately it is about strong-willed people fighting to connect with each other while yearning for peace and home.”