Minamata: Johnny Depp as War Photographer W. Eugene Smith

Johnny Depp will star as war photographer W. Eugene Smith in the indie drama, Minamata.

The film concerns Smith’s work as Life magazine photographer, exposing the poisoning of the people of Minamata, Japan.

Andrew Levitas directs the film, which is based on the book by Aileen Mioko Smith and W. Eugene Smith and adapted by David K. Kessler.

The story will start with Smith as a recluse, with the glory days of World War II far behind him. But an old friend and a commission from Life Magazine editor Ralph Graves convince him to journey back to Japan to expose a big story: the devastating annihilation of a coastal community through mercury poisoning. “Minamata” will start principal production in Japan followed by Serbia in January.

HanWay Films handle international sales and distribution and will start sales at American Film Market, which opens on October 31 in Santa Monica, Calif. CAA Media Finance will handle US rights.

Minamata is developed by Depp’s production company Infinitum Nihil and is produced by Sam Sarkar, Bill Johnson and Andrew Levitas. Jason Forman and Stephen Deuters will executive produce.