CANNES — Helmer Lou Ye has found a dangerous way around his five-year filmmaking ban by from Chinese authorities. He’s aiming to lens his new project in the Palestinian territories.
Lou, whose ban came in the wake of defying China’s Film Bureau by screening his unauthorized movie “Summer Palace” at the Cannes Film Festival last year, is adapting Palestinian scribe Mazen Sa’adeh’s “The Last Hour” through his Dream Factory shingle.
The $2.7 million project is about a Palestinian prisoner who completes his sentence only to discover he has become impotent. Ensuing separation from his wife forces him to re-evaluate his dark past with metaphysical consequences. Lou and Sa’adeh met while on a writers’ program at the U. of Iowa. Project is inspired by Sa’adeh’s own experiences after he was released from prison.
Lou aims to start lensing on location in early 2008 as a way of bypassing his Chinese ban.
“We are not sure about how it will affect the ban,” said producer Nai An. “The moment Lou Ye was told about the ban he expressed that since it is unreasonable and against the constitution of China, he would not stop filmmaking, whether inside China or outside. He has been interested in the Middle East long before he was banned. To go make a movie in the Middle East is one of his dreams.”
Situation in Palestinian Territories, especially Gaza, is increasingly unsafe for foreigners. Gaza has played to renewed intra-Palestinian violence with recent clashes between rival Hamas and Fatah actions leaving many dead. The fate over abducted BBC journo Alan Johnston also remains unclear two months after he was first kidnapped.
While first choice for Lou and Sa’adeh remains to lense in the Palestinian territories, producers are also looking at neighboring locations. “Many producers suggested we should also think about Jordan and some other Middle East cities as a possible choice,” said Nai . “We think that’s a very good suggestion.”
This is second time Lou has had run-in with Chinese authorities. He previously received a two-year ban in 2000 for screening “Suzhou River” at the Rotterdam film fest without official approval.