Roschdy Zem directs French legal thriller

PARIS — Franco-Tunisian thesp Sami Bouajila will topline in “Omar Raddad,” which will be directed by Roschdy Zem, Bouajila’s co-star in “Outside of the Law.”

Maurice Benichou (“Mensch”), Denis Podalydes (“An Ordinary Execution”) and up-and-coming French thesp Salome Stevenin have also joined the cast.

The $8.1 million pic deals with the notorious story of Omar Raddad, a Moroccan gardener who was sentenced to 18 years in a French prison for murdering an elderly woman in the 90s, and pardoned four years later by then-president Jacques Chirac. Raddad, who was never cleared, has been fighting to prove his innocence since his 1998 release.

Penned by Olivier Gorce, Olivier Lorelle and Franco-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb, the film is based on Raddad’s autobiography, “Why Me?”

Lorelle previously co-wrote Bouchareb’s Oscar-nominated war drama “Days of Glory” and Brenda Blethyn starrer “London Rivers.”

“It’s both a suspenseful thriller and a legal drama, interweaving Raddad’s quest to prove his innocence and the relentless investigation led by a journalist who was writing a book on the case,” said producer Jean Brehat, who’s been collaborating with Bouchareb since the late 1980s.

Brehat and Bouchareb are producing “Raddad” via 3B Productions, one of their two Paris-based outfits.

The pair has been nurturing the next generation of French thesps and helmers of North African descent. Their latest film, “Outside the Law” will screen in the main competition at Cannes.

“Raddad” is Zem’s follow up to his helming debut, “Bad Faith,” a comedy centering on a Muslim man (Zem) and a Jewish woman (Cecile de France) whose perfect relationship turns sour when they decide to make it official.

Lensing will start in mid-May in the South of France, Paris and Tunisia.

Paris-based outfit Mars Films handles all rights, including international sales and French distribution.

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