Hollywood movie to highlight Club Med’s `role’ in Ethiopian lift

LOS ANGELES, July 16 (JTA) — A Club Med resort served as a base for airlifting Ethiopian Jews to Israel? That’s the incredible story line of a proposed Hollywood film, provisionally titled “Falasha.” In the “fact-based” movie, the hero is a New York stockbroker who says he was approached by the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, while vacationing in Israel and asked to set up a Club Med resort in the Sudan. The purpose: transporting Ethiopian Jews to the Holy Land. The stockbroker, whose name is being kept secret “for fear of reprisals,” said he complied. While his resort catered to tourists during the day, at night his employees infiltrated an internment camp for Ethiopian Jews and whisked them away. The stockbroker outlined his adventures in a 15-page pitch, which concluded with the claim that over a 10-year period, his Club Med served as the conduit for 10,000 Ethiopian Jews on their way to Israel. In fact, more than 20,000 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel during that time. The vast majority came in 1984-1985 during Operation Moses and in 1991, when over 14,000 were airlifted during a 24-hour period in Operation Solomon. The pitch, which will be expanded into a book by the stockbroker, hit pay dirt immediately. Both Universal Studios and 20th Century Fox bid for the rights, but were beaten out by Jerry Bruckheimer, an independent production company associated with the Walt Disney Studio. The price tag for the transaction was in the low-to-mid six figures. “Falasha” has been dubbed a contemporary “Schindler’s List,” but in a phone interview Chad Oman, the Bruckheimer executive vice president in charge of the project, denied that he was influenced by the success of the Steven Spielberg film. “There are many stories of people who suffer and are helped by others willing to risk their lives,” said Oman. “What attracted us to `Falasha’ was a strong story line with a strong hero.” Oman said that he was at least a year away from filming. The film’s budget has not been set, and its director and cast have yet to be hired. “Right now, I am trying to find the best screenwriter available,” Oman said. Oman added that he hopes to shoot the film as close to the picture’s actual locale as possible. Bruckheimer produced the current action thriller “Con Air.” Its past films include “The Crimson Tide.”

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