DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Prominent Egyptian director Marwan Hamed (“The Yacoubian Building”) is set to shoot dark political thriller “Diamond Dust,” an ensemble pic packed with Arab stars in which a web of corruption emerges that has ties to present-day Egypt.
The Cairo-set “vigilante story” in which Hamed says “every character is a piece of a puzzle pertaining to the murder” of an old man “who has plenty of connections to corruption,” is based on a 2010 book by novelist/screenwriter Ahmed Mourad. The book has become a bestseller in Egypt and also been translated into German and Italian, a rare achievement for an Arab noir.
Cameras will start rolling next week in Cairo on “Diamond Dust” which is being produced by Zein El-Kurdi New Century via New Century Production, an arm of Egypt’s Dollar Film, the Arab world’s oldest filmmaking company. They will release the pic in the Middle East. No world sales company is currently on board.
Mourad, who also penned the “Diamond Dust” script, has previously worked with Hamed on 2014 Egyptian hit “The Blue Elephant,” also based on a bestselling book of his, as well as on Hamed’s most recent film “Al Asleyeen” (“The Originals”).
The “Diamond Dust” novel was written in 2010, one year before Egypt’s 2011 revolution. Therefore while the main narrative structure and characters remain the same, some minor incidents were changed “to give the film a strong connection to the Egypt of 2018,” Hamed said.
The multilayered revenge thriller takes its cue from a young pharmacist who returns home to find that his father has been killed.
The first scene is a flashback set 1954, the year that the first president of Egypt, Muhammad Naguib, an army general, was deposed by the Revolutionary Command Council, leaving Gamal Abdel Nasser, the lieutenant colonel who became Egypt’s strongman, fully in charge.
The A-list Arab cast comprises Menna Shalabi, who won best actress at the Dubai fest in 2015 for her role as an upbeat Cairo cleaning lady in Hala Khalil’s biting post-Revolution social drama “Nawara”; Maged El Kedwani, who won best actor in Dubai for Mohamed Diab’s “678” in 2010; Aser Yassin (“Rags and Tatters”); and Lebanese actor/comic Adel Karam (“The Insult”) whose upcoming comedy special is Netflix’s first Middle East original.
Hamed’s 2006 bold adaptation of Alaa Aswany’s bestselling novel “The Yacoubian Building” became a game-changer in Egytian cinema due to the way it depicted homosexuality, Islamic fundamentalism and government corruption. “Yacoubian,” which was the biggest budget Egyptian pic at the time, become a local hit and travelled widely. Hamed’s “The Blue Elephant,” a thriller with supernatural elements, more recently broke Arab box office records.
Hamed spoke to Variety on day one of the Dubai Film festival where his father, Egyptian screenwriter Wahid Hamed, is being feted with a lifetime achievement award. Hamed’s long list of Egyptian film and TV credits include “The Yacoubian Building.”