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Egypt business has Good News

'Al Qaeda' and 'Baby Doll' on the horizon

The aptly named Good News Group got a lot of it in 2006. The Egyptian shingle scored box office and critical success, and now is readying a full slate for the European Film Market.

Good News came to last year’s Berlinale to preem its long-awaited debut feature, “The Yacoubian Building.” Adapted from Alaa Al-Aswany’s bestselling tome, “Yacoubian” arrived with a reputation as the Egyptian movie with the biggest budget of all time, as well as one of the most controversial in recent years, with its frank depiction of corruption, homosexuality and Islamic fundamentalism.

Cut to 12 months later, and the pic stands as the highest-grossing Egyptian film of last year and has picked up a clutch of international awards on its travels, including new filmmaker for Marwan Hamed at Tribeca and actor for Adel Imam at Sao Paolo.

While the pic missed out on a much-desired foreign-language Oscar nom, the success of “Yacoubian,” along with the release of shingle’s second pic, “Halim,” saw Good News established as one of Egypt’s leading production houses.

This year, Good News execs are traveling to Berlin’s market with a full slate of projects in various stages of development. As well as the anticipated “Al Qaeda,” announced last year, movies in the pipeline include “Morgan Ahmed Morgan,” a political comedy starring Imam that’s set to start lensing mid-February; epic “Mohamed Ali Pasha,” a biopic about the man who founded modern Egypt; and “Ibrahim the White,” the sophomore project from “Yacoubian” helmer Hamed, slated to start shooting in July.

Perhaps most intriguing is “The Baby Doll Night,” a post-9/11 look at relations between Arabs and the West.

“If you want to understand why Americans and Israelis hate the Arabs, and vice versa, you have to see this movie,” says Adel Adeeb, Good News’ head of production, who also will be helming the pic.

While both “Yacoubian” and “Halim” were self-financed, Good News execs are looking to branch out into co-productions. Negotiations have reached an advanced stage with shingles in Canada and France for both “Baby Doll” and “Al Qaeda.”

It’s not simply a matter of sharing the coin that is pushing the company to go international. “We want to bring the Arab and the Western worlds closer. We both have to look at each other’s problems,” says Adeeb.

 Adeeb hopes to eventually branch out into co-producing American and European movies. First up, however, is his desire to create a market in Egypt for French pics.

Company is hosting the world preem of “Princess of the Sun,” a Franco/Belgian animated feature about the young Tutankhamen and Nefertiti, produced by Rezo Films. Preem will take place by the Pyramids of Giza March 12.

“There used to be a market here for French films, so I’m determined to re-establish it,” Adeeb says. “There are 1,500 French schools and 12 French universities in Egypt. We will keep pushing until it has happened.”

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