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Syria frontline surgeon’s story set to be movie

by | May 23, 2019 | Articles and Reports, News

Independent film company The Ink Factory is to adapt War Doctor, the acclaimed bestselling memoir by the British trauma surgeon David Nott, into a movie.  It will boost interest in what is already a very successful book – and may yet help secure an Arab publisher of the title.

Nott is the British surgeon who primarily works in London hospitals but who began volunteering to work for a few weeks every year in some of the world’s most dangerous war zones and devastating humanitarian crises.  Since 1993 he has worked in Gaza, Iraq, Libya, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chad, Darfur, earthquake-struck Haiti and opposition held areas in Syria.  Between 2013 and 2014 he trained and assisted medical students and other doctors to conduct trauma surgeries in opposition-held East Aleppo.

His broadcasts from Syria in 2014 on BBC radio made compelling listening, with the tension and emotion of his eye witness reporting clearly evident.

Published in February by Picador in the UK and Picador US in the States, his memoirs went straight to number one in the Sunday Times bestseller list and spent six weeks in the top ten.  The book includes  his  experiences in Sarajevo under siege in 1993, as well as his recent work in clandestine hospitals in rebel-held eastern Aleppo as he carried out life-saving field surgery in the most challenging conditions.

However, the title has yet to secure an Arabic publisher, though Nott has worked in Arab conflict zones and told the BBC that he used Kallimni Arabi Mazboot (published by the American University in Cairo Press) to help him learn Arabic.  When the film is released – it is scheduled to start production in 2020 – that may change.  His agent Andrew Gordon at David Higham in London said: “We don’t have any Arabic deal in place, but have sold so far Chinese, French and Polish rights, as well as US.  We just turned down an offer in Germany as it wasn’t quite right, and of course are pursuing other interest elsewhere in the light of the book’s success in the UK.”

The deal for the film rights was brokered by Nicky Lund at David Higham with Yogita Puri at The Ink Factory, the studio that has bases in London and Los Angeles and is run by Simon and Stephen Cornwell, the sons of John le Carré.  Among the company’s most successful adapatations are of le Carré’s novels The Night Manager and The Little Drummer Girl. 

No details of casting has been released, nor is it known who will write the screenplay.

The Ink Factory will finance and produce the feature, with Nott’s wife Eleanor Nott serving as executive producer alongside producer Tom Nash at The Ink Factory.  Nash said: “The cinematic potential of War Doctor is there from the very first page.  It’s a story of modern heroism.  He is utterly courageous, but also very honest about his vulnerability.”

Nash believes it is also a story to which people will relate.  He told Variety: “On a Friday afternoon, he is walking the streets of London commuting home and having a very relatable experience, and the next day he is on a plane to Aleppo.  It’s also the story of David finding love and having children and having to reassess his responsibilities, but continuing his mission through training new combat surgeons.  You have this incredibly accessible person doing something extraordinary and inspiring, but within a context with which we can all identify.”

Nott, who received an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2012 and the Robert Burns Humanitarian Award in 2016,  v said: “I know that with The Ink Factory my book is in capable hands and am looking forward to their adaptation.  I have been struck by Ink’s engagement with War Doctor and their enthusiasm for making a thoughtful and also thrilling film, with humanity at its core.”

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