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Vocal Exclusive: "Genius" Executive Producer Sam Sokolow Joins Council Tree Productions to Develop 'Mata Hari' Mini

Multi-Emmy Winner and Oscar-Winning Agustin to Write and Direct

For the first time, filmmakers will attempt to focus the myriad contradictory accounts of the exotic dancer turned alleged spy Mata Hari into an American-made television miniseries that, by its end, will attempt to elucidate truth through legend.

Sam Sokolow, the Emmy-nominated producer of Nat Geo’s Genius franchise, is developing the eight-hour television miniseries with Council Tree Productions (The Chronicles of Ara) based on the life of an exotic dancer and alleged German spy, Mata Hari.

Agustin, multi-Spanish Emmy-Award-winning writer/director and the executive producer of the Oscar-winning Documentary Short, The Lady in Number Six, is set to helm.

Anthony Thorne, executive producer of last year’s Tragedy Girls and writer/producer of the upcoming comedy/thriller Moving Day is producing the mini. Robert J. Haber’s Rajah Media financed the development of the new take of the controversial historical figure and will serve as an executive producer.

A 2016 production, produced by Russia’s Star Media, presently airs on Amazon Prime and stars Vahina Giocante as the titular character.

The miniseries opens following the exotic dancer’s performing days. In the early days of World War I, a series of high-profile assassinations grip the international stage. One woman, the beautiful and mysterious former dancer known as Mata Hari, is suspected to be not only a feared and elusive German spy, but the figure directly responsible for the killings. 

The project’s early marketing materials promise a key project in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, by introducing to contemporary audiences one of history’s strongest and most publicly notorious women. Among the materials is stated; “Combining the espionage of Steven Spielberg’s Munich with the action and intelligence of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes procedurals, Mata Hari heralds the arrival of a bold new female-led historical genre, as inspired by true events.”

Once Mata Hari retired from performing is when the controversies began. The former exotic dancer became embroiled in a world of conflict and ever-changing loyalties. Was she a spy? If so, for whom? Popular opinion, of those who were watching her, is that she was working for Germany. She continued to deny this accusation to those closest to her, and proclaim her innocence. Later on, it appeared that she may have been working on behalf of France.

Regardless, her mysterious travels and actions confounded the MI5, who tracked her until she was captured. Mata Hari was held as a prisoner, denying all along that she was the internationally wanted and elusive Clara Benedix, though she did inform them that she is a spy for the French. She was released in short order, based on a letter from the Dutch government charging the English for illegally holding a Dutch citizen.

Immediately following her release, she resumed her vague mission as a double-agent on behalf of France, while Germany was convinced she was with them. Meanwhile, she followed her heart and fell for a younger man, who betrayed her and set in motion her execution …

Council Tree’s Joel Eisenberg states, “There have been several filmed versions of the story, the most well-known being Greta Garbo’s 1931 classic. Ours takes place at the outset of World War I, several years following Mata Hari’s performing days, when the questions as to whether she was, in reality, a German spy become widely-suspected.”

The real Mata Hari, Margaretha Geertruida MacLeod, was a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan convicted of spying for Germany during World War I. She was executed in 1917 by a French firing squad.

Says Thorne: “Much of the research as to whether the real Mata Hari was or was not a spy is contradictory. This is the focus of our version, the first to begin following her dancing period when she was in the thick of international conflict.”

“Finding the truth and humanity behind history’s most well-known figures is one of our missions,” adds EUE/Sokolow President Sam Sokolow. “We’re excited to be developing what we hope will be the definitive portrait of Mata Hari’s life with Rajah Media and this team.”

Scripts are presently being completed, for a late-2019 production target.

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