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Stockholm: Helmer Saleh Sets Thriller ‘Nile’ With Fares Fares

Swedish writer-director Tarik Saleh will direct the Egypt-set thriller “The Nile Hilton Incident,” based on the murder of a Lebanese pop singer in 2008. The lead role is written for Saleh’s friend Fares Fares (”Zero Dark Thirty”).

French D.P. Pierre Aim (Stockholm festival screener “Macadam Stories”) is on board to shoot, confirmed Swedish producer Kristina Aberg at Stockholm-based production company Atmo.

Aberg has also produced Saleh’s previous films, including “Metropia” and last year’s thriller “Tommy,” starring by Moa Gammel, Ola Rapace and pop singer Lykke Li.

World sales will be handled by Match Factory and the film will start its shoot at the end of November with a budget of $4.25 million. The film is a co-production between Sweden, Denmark (Final Cut For Real) and Germany (Ostlicht), backed by, among others, Eurimages, Film Vast and a Swedish Film Institute top grant of $1.26 million.

Set against the backdrop of the Egyptian Revolution, the thriller features a police officer who investigates the murder of a woman. What initially seems to be a killing of a prostitute turns into a more complicated case involving the very elite of Egypt.

Apart from Cairo, certain scenes will be shot in Casablanca and Germany.

“Atmo works in a tradition of making films for the international market, we haven’t done so many films mainly addressed to the local market,” says producer Aberg. “For many years, Tarik has been looking for stories in Egypt, his second homeland, which makes it very natural for him to shoot this film.”

For many years Aberg has also worked as a journalist in the region.

”I have a big interest in telling stories from the Middle East. Also, I believe it’s perfect timing now when the Middle East is on everyone’s radar. This will lead to more and more films and TV series taking place there,” she added.

“The Nile Hilton Incident” is inspired by the murder of the Lebanese singer Suzanne Tamim. In 2008 she was found brutally murdered in her apartment in Dubai.

That story prompted Saleh to start writing the script. But the film is far from that incident, said Aberg. The tormented officer will be played by Fares Fares, the Swedish actor who also stars in Tomas Vinterberg’s upcoming pic “The Commune.”

Saleh has long been regarded as a talented filmmaker, but judged from critics and audience alike, his previous films haven’t really managed their high ambitions. Why is the time now?

“Actually we were very pleased on how ’Metropia’ reached out. It marked out Atmo in an international arena. We were also very happy with ’Tommy,’ but there wasn’t enough time to promote the film. That said, Tarik and I are convinced that ‘The Nile Hilton Incident’ will be our best film to date,” said Aberg. “It’s the first time Tarek has full control — as the writer of the script and as the director. And this script has been developed over a long (period). It’s a very good, mature and tight script, which was also the reason why we could manage the funding. It is also because of the script that several world sales (agents) made a bid on the film.”

To seek funding from several countries is a necessity if you want to reach out to an international market, according to Aberg.

“The best thing with the Swedish film industry is that we have so many talented creators, quite unique. The worst thing is that old models and structures haven’t been replaced by new ones. The film industry is lagging behind both the music and the video game industry,” she said.

“The Nile Hilton Incident” will be ready for release in spring 2017.

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