It comes after Mollaei’s emotional silver medal win in the Tokyo Olympics, where the Iranian refugee thanked Israel for his win after being driven out of his home country and now representing Mongolia. Similarly, Muki helped the Israeli judo team to a bronze medal.
Gibney is best known for directing documentaries such as Taxi to the Dark Side and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, but has been moving into scripted television, exec producing series including Hulu’s The Looming Tower and Netflix’s Painkiller and directing an episode of Showtime’s Billions.
American-Iranian writer Cyrus Nowrasteh (The Stoning of Soraya M) will pen the script for the new limited series. Gibney and his Jigsaw Productions colleague Kevin Plunkett will exec produce alongside Nowrasteh, Emilio Schenker, Michael Schmidt and Ariel Weisbrod on behalf of Tadmor, and former MGM TV chief Steve Stark via his Toluca Pictures banner.
MGM Television and Tadmor previously acquired the life rights to Muki, Israel’s top-ranked judoka and Mollaei.
The series is based on the true story of Iranian national hero Mollaei, who risked everything for his right to compete to become the world judo champion against rival Israel and its national champion Muki. The two athletes struck a brave friendship and wanted more than anything to compete outside the limitations of politics. Despite threats and intimidation from his Iranian handlers, Saeid fled his Iranian homeland to seek refuge in a hidden location and fight for his title.
The life-and-death stakes of Saeid’s courageous actions recently came to a head in Tokyo, where he outmaneuvered 34 other world-class Olympian judokas to win a silver medal and stunned the world by competing under the Mongolian flag. His is a story of perseverance, bravery, the true spirit of the sport, and, above all, an impossible friendship.
The project is being developed in collaboration with Mollaei and Muki as well as with the International Judo Federation, headed by President Marius Vizer, and will feature exclusive, never-before-seen footage of the athletes.
This is the second project to come out of MGM’s first-look deal with Tadmor Entertainment, following documentary series Eichmann – The Devil Speaks, which will premiere later this year on Israeli Public Broadcaster KAN.
Gibney is represented by UTA. Nowrasteh is represented by The Vendetta Group.