Ben Ammar to build auds at home and abroad
On the Lido with Julian Schnabel’s “Miral,” which it co-produced, Tarak Ben Ammar’s Quinta Communications is getting set to raise the bar on the distribution of films with Arab storylines in the Middle East.“Miral” and Rachid Bouchareb’s Cannes competition player “Outside the Law” will be the first two films to benefit from this new ambition. Quinta is already making Arab-themed movies for international audiences: It has Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “Black Thirst” in pre-production, with principal photography starting Oct. 18 in Tunisia. The push forms part of Ben Ammar’s strategy to harness opportunities for the best Arab and Middle Eastern stories to travel internationally, while also building a market for them in the Arab and Middle Eastern world. “What’s really important for us is to ensure that there is a market down the line in the Arabic world for non-Egyptian Arab films,” said Ali Jaafar, who joined Quinta in March to head up its London-based indie film division. That would allow Quinta to finance select films outside of the Arab market. Quinta holds Middle East rights on “Outside the Law” and is working with distributors and exhibitors in the region on a long lead-in marketing campaign with a strong viral component. “Law” has also received support from the regional press. On “Miral,” Phars Films has acquired Middle East theatrical rights from Pathe Intl. and Quinta will support the distribution push in the region, helping ensure as many people know about the film as possible. Several factors play in Quinta’s favor as it attempts to take Arab film distribution to the next level. For a start, Arab films are showing small successes in distribution. Ali Mustafa’s Iraqi movie “City of Life” has sold around 80,00 tickets in the United Arab Emirates alone. “Law” is “a mainstream film, with lots of shoot-’em-up action and the story of a mother caring for three sons, which offers opportunities to plug into female audiences as well as younger, action-oriented male auds,” Jaafar said. Multiplexes are growing in number in the Middle East, a factor making the region more attractive. Quinta has deep-enough pockets to stick around the region, and not just take a minimum guarantee and run. Currently, Quinta is negotiating broadcast sales rights on “Law” with the biggest pay TV and free-to-air operators in the region. “On a free-to-air sale, we plan to reinvest the money to make ‘Law’ as visible as possible on broadcasters’ screens,” Jaafar said.