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Ambition is a major part of the American identity. From the Revolutionary War to Manifest Destiny to the evolution of American industry, much of our current zeitgeist has been forged by inextinguishable ambition and bold men with a view toward the future. One such man was Henry Ford, best known as founder of the Ford Motor Company and frequently credited as the father of the assembly line. But few know about the man's more romantic ambition to create small town America in the thick of the Brazilian Amazon.
This is the story at the center of the Greg Grandin-penned biography Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City, which Variety reports River Road Entertainment is developing into a feature film. Producers Bill Pohlad and Sarah Hammer have already hired screenwriter Ben Coccio, who co-wrote Derek Cianfrance's follow-up to the controversial Blue Valentine, The Place Beyond the Pines, to adapt the heralded book, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
Like it's subject, the film itself must be ambitious as it's set in Fordlandia, a 1927 settlement twice the size of Delaware that the American industrialist set up in the Amazon to grow rubber. Fueled by his belief that workers deserved substantial wages for their work—a philosophy actually dubbed Fordism—he also attempted to include golf courses, ice-cream shops, bandstands, indoor plumbing and other American luxuries in his new colony. But despite his best efforts, culture clashes with the indigenous people and the jungle itself made it impossible for Ford to imprint his will onto the wild.
It's a fascinating and little known story that could prove topical as well as massive in scope. It'll be interesting to see how River Road chooses to develop this story, and what themes they'll pull from Ford's major misstep.