'Fordlandia': Get Ready For A Werner Herzog TV Show

Werner Herzog will bring his unique blend of artistry and unbearable misery to television with Fordlandia, a series about Henry Ford's attempt to recreate small-town America in the heart of the Amazon.

Filmmaker Werner Herzog is known the world over, both for his provocative films and documentaries, and for his gloomy-yet-charming personality. He's a legend. And now he's bringing his talents to the medium of television. Herzog will work with Hyde Park Entertainment to adapt Greg Grandin's award-winning book Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City into a TV series.

This project sounds fascinating, and not just because of Herzog's involvement (although that's a big plus). The book tells a true story that I'd wager not many people are familiar with. In the 1920s, Henry Ford – then the richest man in the world – bought a tract of land in the Brazilian Amazon and set about creating a facsimile of small-town America. Here's the book's synopsis:

In 1927, Henry Ford, the richest man in the world, bought a tract of land twice the size of Delaware in the Brazilian Amazon. His intention was to grow rubber, but the project rapidly evolved into a more ambitious bid to export America itself, along with its golf courses, ice-cream shops, bandstands, indoor plumbing, and Model Ts rolling down broad streets.

Fordlandia, as the settlement was called, quickly became the site of an epic clash. On one side was the car magnate, lean, austere, the man who reduced industrial production to its simplest motions; on the other, the Amazon, lush, extravagant, the most complex ecological system on the planet. Ford's early success in imposing time clocks and square dances on the jungle soon collapsed, as indigenous workers, rejecting his midwestern Puritanism, turned the place into a ribald tropical boomtown. Fordlandia's eventual demise as a rubber plantation foreshadowed the practices that today are laying waste to the rain forest.

I have no doubt that Herzog will bring his somewhat nihilistic outlook to this material. As Grandin states in his book, "Ford's great delusion was not that the Amazon could be tamed but that the forces of capitalism, once released, might yet be contained." One can't help read this and think of Herzog's 1982 film Fitzcarraldo, a story of greed and madness focused on a man trying to haul a massive boat over a mountain in the Amazon.

Of course, one could also look at the story of Ford and see parallels to current events. Priya Amritraj, Hydepark Entertainment CEO, certainly does. "Fordlandia is an incredible true story and we are thrilled to be working with Werner, one of the world's most iconic filmmakers, and Chris, a truly exceptional writer," Amritraj said. "The story of a tycoon with absolute power imposing his vision of America on the world is extremely relevant today."

There's no word yet when and where Fordlandia will air, so in the meantime, please enjoy this video.