Mideast directors risk to finish films

Helmers look to bring their POV to screens

Mohamed al-Daradji: The Iraqi helmer, 28, was born in Baghdad and studied theater directing at Baghdad’s Fine Art Institute. He’s now a Dutch resident; after his cousin was assassinated, his family fled Saddam’s regime in 1995. Al-Daradji graduated from Leeds Metropolitan U. with a master’s degree in cinematography and directing. He directed “Ahlaam” (2007) and is approaching European and Arab sources for coin for his next, “Um Hussein.”

Siddiq Barmak: The 44-year-old Afghan helmer graduated with a master’s degree in directing from the Moscow Film Institute, then was head of the Afghan government’s film org in the mid-’90s. He fled to Pakistan when the Taliban came to power and banned all cinema. He directed the country’s first post-Taliban feature, “Osama” (2001), with coin from Iranian helmer Mohsen Makhmalbaf. He’s prepping his second feature, “Opium War,” with funding from co-producer Cineclick Asia.

Philippe Aractingi: The 42-year-old Lebanese helmer, a veteran of documentaries about the Lebanese civil war, scored the country’s biggest hit in 20 years with his debut feature, “Bosta.” His “After the Summer Rain,” partly shot during the July war with Israel, received coin from Lebanon, France and the U.K. Aractingi chose to remain in Lebanon when the conflict broke out rather than be evacuated to France along with his wife and children.

Ziad Doueiri: The Lebanese helmer, 44, was Quentin Tarantino’s a.d. He came to prominence with 1998’s “West Beirut,” a coming-of-age drama set during the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war. Sophomore effort was “Lila dit ca,” which saw the helmer relocate to France. He is talking projects with Focus Features and the Weinstein Co.

Rachid Bouchareb: The French helmer of Algerian origin has also produced features for the likes of Bruno Dumont (“L’Humanite”) and Ziad Doueiri (“West Beirut”). He is prepping a follow-up to his 2006 “Days of Glory” that looks at the Algerian war of independence against the French, as well as possible biopics on Bob Marley and Christopher Columbus.

Mani Haghighi: The 37-year-old Iranian regularly gets invited to international film fests while having his fair share of run-ins with his country’s authorities. His 2006 “Men at Work,” a subversive black comedy, won the screenplay prize at last month’s Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong, but the film has yet to receive an official screening permit in Iran. He has been waiting four months for a shooting permit for his new project “Canaan.”

Click here to see related story: A look at the climate these directors face when filming their features

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