Pair see promise in ‘Land’ history

Firth, Macfadyen cast in Winterbottom pic

Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen have boarded Michael Winterbottom’s “The Promised Land.”

The thesps join Jim Sturgess for the project, which recounts the months leading up to the 1948 partition of Palestine and the subsequent creation of the state of Israel.

Pic is bound to raise eyebrows on both sides of the divide with its depiction of Jewish militant groups launching terror attacks against British forces and Palestinian civilians during their campaign for statehood.

The $5 million project, which is set to start lensing on location in the summer, will be produced by Winterbottom’s partner Andrew Eaton through their Revolution Films shingle. Fortissimo Films will handle worldwide sales.

Fortissimo and Revolution previously worked together on 2006 Berlinale opener “Snow Cake.”

The project was developed through the U.K. Film Council public-sector funding org.

“Promised Land” is the latest in a series of projects by Western filmmakers to tackle the subject of Arab-Israeli conflict.

Julian Schnabel is in post on “Miral,” starring Hiam Abbas and Freida Pinto, for Pathe. Pic is about the real-life Palestinian nurse Hind Husseini, who created the Dar Al-Tifi orphanage in Jerusalem in 1948. Story will span several decades.

“The Queen” producer Andy Harries is developing a Gaza-based feature starring Helen Mirren as a Jewish woman whose journo daughter is murdered while covering events in the Gaza Strip. And Serbian helmer Emir Kusturica is also set to start production on “Cool Water,” about two Palestinian brothers who smuggle the dead body of their father from Jerusalem to Ramallah as they are pursued by Israeli police, Russian mobsters and a terrorist gang.

Despite a reputation for choosing eclectic subjects — Winterbottom has directed everything from a sci-fi pic (“Code 46”) to a period drama (“Jude”) — the helmer has displayed a fascination with politics in the Middle East and Muslim world.

“A Mighty Heart,” starring Angelina Jolie, retold the story of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was executed by Islamic fundamentalists in Pakistan shortly after the 9/11 attacks.

“In This World” looked at Afghan refugees attempting to journey to asylum in the U.K., while docudrama “The Road to Guantanamo,” which won the Golden Bear at Berlin, followed the true story of a trio of British Muslims who were held in Guantanamo Bay for two years until they were released without charge.

Winterbottom’s latest pic, “The Killer Inside Me,” had its world preem at Sundance. Pic, which stars Casey Affleck and Jessica Alba and is about a Texan deputy sheriff who embarks on a killing spree, will receive its European preem in Berlin.

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