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Helmer takes shoot to war

Pic set during recent war between Lebanon and Israel

Lebanese helmer Philippe Aracktingi is taking filming under fire to new extremes with new project “Under the Bombs.”

Aracktingi lensed part of the pic, set during the recent war between Lebanon and Israel, while real bombs were exploding all around him. “The war started on July 12, and I had the idea two days later,” Aracktingi says. “I wanted to put actors into a real war.

“It was crazy,” he adds. “There was shelling everywhere.”

The pic, which follows a Lebanese ex-pat mother’s return to Lebanon to search for her child in the heavily bombarded south of the country, marks a major change of pace for the helmer. Previous pic “Bosta,” a musical comedy, was a box office sensation in Lebanon earlier this year, registering more than 100,000 admissions and out-grossing the likes of “King Kong” and the third installment of the “Harry Potter” franchise.

“As much as ‘Bosta’ was light, ‘Under the Bombs’ is dark,” Aracktingi says. “We actually filmed on one of the real warships evacuating people during the war.”

The entire cast, except for the two lead actors, are real people playing themselves, some of whom had lost relatives and their homes. The verite approach, coupled with the helmer’s decision to improvise the majority of the scenes, meant the pic had to be shot on the run. “There’s an amazing energy and emotion in all the scenes. The refugees in the film are actually refugees telling their own stories. We had to be spontaneous and use the first take, even when we had helicopters flying above us,” Aracktingi says.

 Pic, which the helmer is still completing, is attracting major interest from foreign buyers. Aracktingi has already secured distribution for the Mideast, as well as being close to inking deals with British and French distribs. Pic should be ready for its theatrical bow next spring. In the meantime, Aracktingi is busy trying to push “Bosta” toward a foreign-language nom at next year’s Oscars. “Bosta” is Lebanon’s official entry and has inked distrib deals in France, Spain, Italy and Turkey.

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