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‘Pepper Land’ Helmer Saleem to Direct ‘Money Baby’

Saleem will depict former Kurdish freedom figthers who have replaced ideals with money

Kurdish director Hiner Saleem, whose absurdist Kurdistan-set Western “My Sweet Pepper Land” is a recent fest-circuit standout, will shoot “Money Baby,” a thriller also set in his homeland, but amid former freedom fighters who have become millionaires.

Similarly to “Pepper Land,” which had its Middle East preem at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival Sunday, “Money” will be produced by French shingle Agat Films & Cie as a probable co-production with Germany, where there is a large Kurdish population, Agat’s Marc Bordure said. “Pepper Land” also tapped into funding from the Abu Dhabi fest’s Sanad fund.

Co-written with “Pepper” co-scribe Veronique Wutric, Saleem’s new project is set mostly in Erbil, which is the capital of Iraqi-Kurdistan. It sees a male protag who had fled to France after fighting against Saddam Hussein in the 1980’s and 90’s, returning to his homeland where money has replaced idealistic dreams.

“Under the new Iraqi constitution Kurds can tap into the oil money in their region, so there is an economic boom,” Saleem said.

“It’s about the crumbling of an ideal; now money has replaced a collective dream of freedom, sort of like what happened in Europe after the 60’s and 70’s; not much is left of that dream these days,” he added.

Saleem revealed that the protag is married to a French woman who loved him when he was an idealist, but now that he has become super rich some issues surface between them.

The plan is to start shooting in and around Erbil next year with a budget between 2.5 and 3 million Euros ($3.4-4million), which Bordure said was a substantial sum for a Kurdistan-set pic.

“Pepper,” which bowed in May at Cannes in Un Certain Regard, has since travelled to more than twenty festivals and been sold by Gaul’s Films Distribution to at least ten territories.

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