VENICE, Italy — Sameh Zoabi is set to direct “Tel Aviv on Fire,” a high-concept comedy starring Kais Nashef and Lubna Azabal, who both starred in the Oscar-nominated Palestinian film “Paradise Now.”
Indie Sales has acquired the film. The Paris-based sales outfit is at the Venice Film Festival with a slate that includes Ziad Doueiri’s Lebanon-set drama “The Insult,” which world-premiered in competition on the Lido.
Zoabi, who is Arab-Israeli, graduated from Columbia University and won a prize at the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinefondation with his 2005 student short, “Be Quiet.” His feature debut, “Man Without a Cell Phone,” played at the Jerusalem Film Festival. He also directed the TV movie “Under the Same Sun” which is set in a near future where peace between Israel and Palestine has been made. Zoabi also collaborated with Hany Abu-Assad on the screenplay of “The Idol.”
“Tel Aviv on Fire,” set in contemporary Israel, revolves around Salam, a 30-year-old Palestinian living in Jerusalem who works as an intern on a hugely popular TV soap called “Tel Aviv on Fire,” which is about an illicit love affair between a Palestinian female spy and an Israeli general in 1967. Every day, Salam must pass through the Israeli checkpoints to reach the television studios. One day, he meets the checkpoint chief, Assi, who starts asking him to change the show’s storyline in order to please his wife, who is a huge fan of the series.
“‘Tel Aviv on Fire’ deals with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with an original treatment, some humor and appealing characters,” said Indie Sales CEO and co-founder Nicolas Eschbach.
The film is produced by TS Prods., a French banner whose credits include Martin Provost’s “Seraphine” and Denis Villeneuve’s “Incendies,” and Samsa Film (“Möbius”), Lama Films, the Israeli outfit behind “Paradise Now” (pictured) and “Jellyfish,” and Belgium’s Artémis Prods. (“I Am Not Your Negro”).
“Tel Aviv on Fire” will start shooting on Sept. 12 for an expected delivery during the first quarter of 2018. Happiness Distribution will release the film in France.