Ruba Nadda takes pic to South Africa

Director Ruba Nadda watched the 18 days of rage in Tahrir Square with a mixture of hope and trepidation.

Her 2010 indie feature “Cairo Time,” starring Patricia Clarkson, filmed on location in the Egyptian capital — a city she loves and turned into the teeming centerpiece of her subtle platonic love story. But even as she marveled at the events that overthrew Egypt’s corrupt regime, she was robbed of the opportunity to shoot her next feature in the troubled region.

Nadda, a Syrian-Canadian who lives in Toronto, had planned to film the Middle East-set thriller with the working title “Inescapable” in Jordan. But now it has suddenly become impossible to secure insurance for any production in the entire area stretching from Jordan all the way to Morocco.

Switching gears, she now plans to shoot the picture in South Africa. “I would have loved to film in Jordan but that’s not going to happen,” she said. “There’s now so much instability in the region that skyrocketing insurance is a nightmare.”

But her disappointment is tempered by a sense of relief. “Part of me really wanted to shoot my next movie in the region, but another part of me is fed up with the censorship and the hoops you have to jump through to film there,” she said, adding that even film-friendly countries like Jordan — where parts of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and “The Hurt Locker” were shot — pose thorny censorship issues.

When she filmed “Cairo Time,” she recalled, “I could never direct 100% because I always had to deal with the censor assigned to us. I’d love to be able to direct and not have to worry about the government and whether or not they’re going to sign our reels and allow them to leave the country.”

As for Nadda’s next project, there’s even more reason to avoid the Middle East. “Inescapable” is a politically charged story about a man living in Canada who hasn’t returned to his country in 30 years. He learns that his photojournalist daughter has gone missing and goes back to find her — but the reason for his exile is tied to her disappearance. It stars Alexander Siddig, who played opposite Clarkson in “Cairo Time.”

Nadda noted that Egyptians are “desperate for change” and hopes that the country will now become friendlier to foreign producers. Egypt is already the entertainment capital of the Arab world and a major center for TV production and commercials.

“This might be a chance to open the place up,” agreed location manager Bill Bowling, whose experience in the region has taken him to Morocco, Jordan and Abu Dhabi. “Egypt has been almost impossible to work in because it’s rife with corruption and bureaucracy,” he said. “Now there’s an opportunity to have a whole new kind of country. With its low labor costs, TV production infrastructure and major locations, it could emerge as a filmmaking power.”

But in the meantime, Nadda is pursuing her plans to go to South Africa. “We’re waiting to hear back from one more financier,” she said on Friday. “I think we’ll start prepping in the middle of April and begin shooting on June 15.”

Bookings & Signings

Paradigm has signed editors Randy Bricker (“The Roommate”) and Eddie Hamilton (“Kick-Ass”), d.p./director Larry Reibman (“Medium”) and 1st AD Rip Murray (“Let Me In”). Agency booked producers Penny Adams on A&E pilot “Big Mike,” Loucas George on an untitled CBS pilot helmed by Jonathan Demme, Henry Lange on ABC pilot “Other People’s Kids,” Margot Lulick on CBS pilot “Person of Interest,” Jimmy Simons on NBC pilot “Free Agents,” Joanne Toll on NBC pilot “Brave new World” and David Roessell on CW’s “Awakening.”

Paradigm also booked editors Scott Gamzon on Fox pilot “Locke & Key,” Henk Van Eeghen on ABC pilot “Once Upon a time,” Greg Plotkin on Tod Williams’ “Paranormal Activity 3″ and David Rosenbloom on Tarsem Singh’s “Immortals”; d.p.’s Sarah Cawley on CBS pilot “The Ringer,” Patti Lee on ABC pilot “Smothered” and Fox pilot “I Hate My Teenage Daughter,” John Lindley on ABC pilot “Pan Am” and Peter Smokler on “Other People’s Kids”; production designers Mark Worthington on “Once Upon a Time,” Keith Brian Burns on “Big Mike,” Cynthia Charette on ABC pilot “My Freaking Family” and Paul Peters on USA’s “Necessary Roughness”; and costume designers Bob Blackman on NBC pilot “Wonder Woman” and Deborah Everton on Disney Channel pilot “Madison High.”

Want to comment or suggest a column topic?Email peter.caranicas@variety.comPeter Bart’s Column, Page 8

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