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Next Time You Binge on the Panama Papers Will Be on Netflix

Netflix has exclusive rights to two journalists' accounts of revealing the Panama Papers leaks.

BERLIN, GERMANY - APRIL 13:  An activist clutching a suitcase stuffed with fake money demands greater trasparency in new legislation following the ongoing Panama Papers affair on April 13, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Police in Panama have reportedly raided the offices of Mossack Fonseca, the law-firm accused of facilitating large-scale offshore tax evasion for thousands of its clients.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
BERLIN, GERMANY - APRIL 13: An activist clutching a suitcase stuffed with fake money demands greater trasparency in new legislation following the ongoing Panama Papers affair on April 13, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Police in Panama have reportedly raided the offices of Mossack Fonseca, the law-firm accused of facilitating large-scale offshore tax evasion for thousands of its clients. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

An anonymous source leaks millions of documents from one of the world’s largest offshore law firms to two German journalists. More than a year of secretive research spans across 107 media organizations in dozens of countries. News articles start to roll out. Politicians implicated in the scandal begin to resign and Iceland, of all places, becomes the site of major protests that ultimately oust the prime minister and leave the parliament covered in yogurt thrown by angry demonstrators gathered outside.

If you think it sounds like perfect fodder for a film,  Netflix, the streaming company that has more recently begun creating original TV series and movies, is one step ahead. It announced plans Tuesday to turn a new memoir by the German journalists into a feature-length movie that will eventually premiere online.

Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer, the journalists who worked directly with the source who leaked them 11.5 million documents from Panamanian firm Mossack Fonseca, recently published The Panama Papers: Breaking the Story of How the World’s Rich and Powerful Hide Their Money. Netflix now has exclusive rights to their account.

“This is probably the most important political story of recent times,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told the Guardian. “So I imagine there will be many different stories and angles to come from it. We think ours will be the definitive take.”

Doing the film right will take good casting. No directors or actors have been named, but it will be handled by John Wells Productions, and depending on how the movie studio goes about documenting the dramatic leak, it could need to find actors to play major world figures ranging from Russian President Vladimir Putin to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and French National Front founder Jean Marie Le Pen — not to mention the journalists who revealed politicians’ various roles in tax havens.

And Netflix probably isn’t underestimating interest in a film that explores how good journalism happens. This past year, Spotlight, the dramatized depiction of the Boston Globe’s investigation into sex abuse in the Catholic Church, took home two Oscars for “Best Picture” and “Best Original Screenplay.” It also made more than $88 million in worldwide revenue. 

Photo credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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