A movie inspired by one of the biggest data leaks in history is set for its world premiere at the upcoming Venice International Film Festival, considered a key launchpad for Academy Awards’ success next February.
The Laundromat, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Steven Soderbergh for Netflix, is based on the Panama Papers, the culmination of a global investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 global media partners to expose the rogue offshore finance industry.
Soderbergh has previously directed blockbusters such as Erin Brockovich and Traffic, which won him an Oscar for best director. The screenplay’s writer, Scott Z. Burns, has scripted several box-office hits, including The Bourne Ultimatum, Side Effects and Contagion.
The story draws on a book by Jake Bernstein, Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite. Bernstein, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, was a reporter on the ICIJ-led project.
The Laundromat will premiere on September 1 at the prestigious Italian festival, ranked beside Cannes and Berlin among the ‘Big Three’ in the world. The A-List cast includes Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas, Melissa Rauch, Gary Oldman, Sharon Stone and David Schwimmer.
Streep plays Ellen Martin, a widow whose dream vacation casts her into a nether world of shady dealings that link back to a Panama City law firm run by Jürgen Mossack (Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Banderas).
Martin’s odyssey involves the kind of cases that proliferate in the Panama Papers, a leak of millions of files that detailed secretive financial networks linked to the world’s richest and most powerful people, including criminals, celebrities and political leaders.
The original leak of 11.5 million confidential documents came via an anonymous whistleblower who contacted reporters Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier from the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Obermayer and Obermaier provided the documents to ICIJ, which brought together a team of nearly 400 reporters to collaborate on an international investigation. In April 2016, more than 100 media outlets around the world simultaneously published their findings, which have since led to the recovery of more than $1.2 billion in fines and back taxes, as well as hundreds of official investigations and responses from governments and authorities around the world.
The investigation’s revelations sparked widespread condemnation and huge protests on the streets of the United Kingdom, Malta, Iceland and Pakistan. The leaders of both Iceland and Pakistan were forced to resign.
Following its premiere in Venice, The Laundromat will be showcased at the 44th Toronto International Film Festival later next month.
Soderbergh’s previous movies have been warmly received at various international festivals considered precursors to Oscars’ success. His 1989 movie Sex, Lies, and Videotape, for example, earned him the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme D’Or Award, which in turn led to an Oscar nomination for Best Director.
Netflix is planning to release The Laundromat on its streaming service later this year.