Sundance: Beta Cinema Picks Up Elite
Courtesy Locarno Film Festival

LONDON — Beta Cinema has picked up “Sand Storm,” which is set to world premiere in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the Sundance Film Festival.

The Israeli drama, shot in Arabic by debut-writer/director Elite Zexer, will have its debut at Sundance on Jan. 25, and the European premiere will follow in the Berlinale’s Panorama section in February. “Sand Storm” took the top award at the Locarno festival’s works-in-progress section.

The film is produced by Haim Mecklberg and Estee Yacov-Mecklberg at Israel’s 2-Team Productions, which also produced “The Farewell Party,” winner of the Venice Public Choice Award. Beta also handled sales on “The Farewell Party.”

As wedding festivities get underway in a Bedouin village in Southern Israel, Jalila finds herself in the awkward position of hosting her husband Suliman’s marriage to a second, much younger wife. During the celebration, Jalila stumbles across eldest daughter Layla’s involvement with a boy from her university — a strictly forbidden liaison that would shame the family. Burying the indignity of Suliman and his new bride living next door, Jalila also tries to contain Layla’s situation by clamping down on her. But younger and possessed of a boundless spirit, Layla sees a different life for herself.

Zexer said: “‘Sand Storm’ is 87 minutes, but for me, it’s years. Years of an amazing ride, of passions, of struggles, of ups, of downs, of pure joy, of forever waiting or of an impossible run. Years of creation. What I learned during the making of this film is that the most wonderful part of filmmaking is the making. It’s hard to part with it and let it run loose in the world. But it’s also very exciting. I can’t wait.”

Mecklberg said: “We’re extremely proud of ‘Sand Storm,’ which touched the hearts of everybody who was exposed to it so far. Our collaboration with Elite was a sheer delight. Her command of every aspect of the film did not cease to amaze us through every step of the production.”

Beta Cinema’s Thorsten Ritter said: “‘Sand Storm’ is a true gem. It depicts a very particular world and culture, but never in a folkloristic or exposing way. Instead it draws you right in to find yourself immersed in family dynamics that resonate universally and regardless of being a man or woman. And while the film has not a scene too many, it is yet nuanced and multi-layered, featuring beautiful performances and a filmmaker in full command.”

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