Producer builds a business in Jordan with tyro talent
Black comedy “Me Myself and Murdoch” (no, not that Murdoch) — about a Palestinian man who awakes from a coma to discover he can speak only Hebrew — is the first time the Jordanian producer Rula Nasser has worked with a budget of $1 million. It’s also the first out-and-out laffer from her shingle, the Imaginarium Films.
Still, Nasser maintains, money is not a filmmaking imperative. “Story is the big issue,” she says. “If you have something you believe in, you will find your way.”
That’s been Nasser’s m.o. as she’s shepherded a pics on a shoestring in a nation in which she admits that filmmaking is “not in the DNA.”
“Me Myself and Murdoch” will be directed by sophomore Jordanian helmer-scribe Yahya Al Abdallah, whose first feature, “The Last Friday,” was produced by Nasser in 2011 on a $100,000 budget. Imaginarium’s first film, Mohammad Al Hushki’s 2010 Amman-set drama “Transit Cities,” produced for $20,000, scooped the Special Jury Prize in Dubai.
Nasser got her start in the film industry in 2000 working on a BBC series shot in Jordan. In 2006, she joined Jordan’s Royal Film Commission as an operations manager, and was part of a team that set up film clubs in Amman and throughout the region. She established Imaginarium in 2010.
The fact that many Arab countries, including Jordan, are underscreened is a sore spot for Nasser. “You need to show your films to local audiences. There is this paradox that Arab films travel internationally, but don’t get seen in their home territories,” she says.
In truth, the nation is better known to the international film community as a location for Hollywood pics such as “The Hurt Locker” and, more recently, Jon Stewart’s upcoming “Rosewater,” rather than for its cinematic heritage.
Nasser is hoping to change that.
Her latest finished film, Palestinian director Mais Darwazah’s docu “My Love Awaits Me by the Sea,” was well received at its Toronto fest world preem last year. Making the transition to lighter fare, Nasser recently wrapped shooting on road movie “The Curve,” by Jordanian first-timer Rifqi Assaf, co-produced with Mohamed Hefzy’s Film Clinic.
The challenge, she adds, “is to take first-time talents and try to make something with them.”