Prolific director Steven Spielberg, after legendary successes like War Horse, Empire of the Sun, Munich, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan and Amistad, is about to embark in the project that will turn David Kertzer’s book The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara into his latest historical drama movie thanks to the screenplay written by Tony Kushner.

It is the story of a six-year-old Jewish boy who, on June 23, 1858, was abducted by Inquisition officers from his family home in Bologna and taken to Rome to be raised Catholic. The boy was wrenched from his father’s arms because he had been secretly “baptized” by a family servant. According to papal law, the child was therefore a Catholic who could be taken from his Jewish family and delivered to a special monastery where his conversion would have been completed.

The kidnapping became a pivotal event in the collapse of the Vatican as a secular power and the book, an historical thriller and authoritative analysis, highlights how a single human tragedy changed the course of history. Moving and informative, the story evokes the anguish of a modest family, the daily life in a Jewish ghetto, and it also looks into the emergence of Italy as a modern national state, through the revolutionary campaigns of Mazzini and Garibaldi.

Spielberg is due to arrive in Italy in February to start filming in Bologna and Rome. In the meantime casting director, Beatrice Kruger, will be looking for an Italian boy to play the role of Edgardo Mortara.

Ilona Catani Scarlett

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