×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Helmers bring immigrant vision to Euro pix

Abu Assad working on 'Cairo,' Traidia to make 'Bottles'

AMSTERDAM — The history of film in Hollywood has been written, in part, by some of its greatest talent crossing over from Europe. Now, a small but significant strand of filmmakers, coming out of the shifting populations and immigrant cultures of Europe, are beginning to make important contributions to the Euro film industry.

The experience of being trapped between two cultures may be a common one, but some of these filmers are providing new visions that are anything but common.

Palestinian-born Dutch director Hany Abu Assad is now lensing his sixth pic, “L.A. Cairo.” The Arab-American film about the American dream is being produced by Los Angeles- based outfit Dviant Pictures.

“L.A. Cairo” follows on the heels of multiple award winner and Palestinian Oscar nominee “Paradise Now,” about the last 48 hours of a suicide bomber. Says Abu Assad, “I was born to a people that have lost their land. When that happens, you have only the history, the stories to tell. If the stories are extreme, it is because the experiences have been extreme.”

Abu Assad’s experiences continue to be extreme. Shooting “Paradise Now” in violence-torn Nablus, his cast and crew faced threats to their lives, and his locations manager was kidnapped.

Algerian-born Dutch lenser Karim Traidia, winner of the Holland’s Golden Calf award for “Polish Bride,” is now financing his fourth film, “The Journey of the Empty Bottles,” a story about an Iranian political refugee’s search for identity.

Traidia says he strongly identified with the main character in the Kader Abdollah story. “I became Dutch, but it cost me a lot of pain and sacrifice before I could accept it.”

He adds, however, fears of cultural dilution are very real and pervasive in Europe today. “Everyone is being hit by Europeanization and globalization and has a fear of losing their identity.”

The experience of being different can nourish creativity and in some cases, provide an objectivity that a native helmer might not have.

Polish-born Pawel Pawlikovski, who came to the U.K. as a teenager, notes, “Everything looks more ambiguous, absurd, funny and threatening, sometimes more beautiful and attractive than it would if you understand the ins and the outs. You observe more intensely and spend more time in your own head.”

For Jan Fleischer, former Czech new wave filmer, now a lecturer in scriptwriting at the National Film and Television School (NFTS) in the U.K., the experience of filming under communism was a definitive plus for creativity. “Under censorship, you learn to talk in parable and metaphor,” says Fleischer, who, blacklisted, left the Czech Republic two days before the regime collapsed, to take up his post in the U.K. “Being given a straightjacket sometimes makes you more inventive.”

The creative contributions of film directors coming out of today’s Eastern camp is being tapped by Taskovski Films, which has produced and is representing “Czech Dream,” a satirical docu-jab at modern capitalism directed by Vit Klusak & Filip Remunda, already sold to some 15 territories in Europe

The London-based company was founded by Irena Taskovski, who fled to the Czech Republic at the age of 17 following the outbreak of the war in her native Bosnia.

Taskovski believes a major creative wind is coming out of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, reasons her company has moved into sales, not only for “Czech Dream,” but for a handful of other pics, among them award-winning lenser Jan Cvitkovik’s “Gravehopping” and Czech helmer Aleksander Manic’s “The Shutka Book of Records.” Company is getting significant interest on the slate of pics from the U.S., she says.

Scandinavian wave

Scandinavia is becoming a major hotbed for new first- or second-generation immigrant helmers, with box office numbers bolstering new sales expectations. Films like Khalid Hussain’s “Import Export” and Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen’s film “Izzat,” about Pakistani gangsters in Norway, have delivered beyond expectations at the box office, says Jan Eric Holst, exec director of the international department at the Norwegian Film Industry.

Lebanese-born Swedish lenser Josef Fares’ third pic, “Zozo,” failed to bring in the wild box office his comedies “Kops” and “Jalla Jalla” did in Sweden, but at 300,000, the numbers for the partially autobiographical drama were respectable. Iranian born Swedish lenser Reza Bagher’s “Popular Music” also came close to 300,000.

Sonet Film has picked up Amir Chamdin’s debut feature film “God Willing,” a romantic tale set for release next March about the love between a Syrian man and a Finnish woman, both living in Stockholm. Chamdin, known for cranking out musicvids and a member of the popular band Infinite Mass, says Swedish films continue to stereotype, as does the society at large. Local interest in “God Willing” should be strong, as Cardigan’s singer Nina Persson plays the lead.

Several of these filmmakers have been quite successful already — Trust Film Sales reports Fares’ “Zozo” sold to 26 territories, “Jalla Jalla” to more than 65 and “Kops” to some 55.

U.K. Film Council European executive Jan-Jacob Lousberg points to the successes of Turkish-born German director Feta Akim and Turkish born Italian director Ferzan Ozpetek, calling Ozpetek’s “Facing Windows” one of the most successful Italian films of all time.

Indeed, “Facing Windows” reported $14 million in box office, the third-biggest take in Italy in 2003, and sold to 32 territories. Abu Assad’s “Paradise Now” at last count, sold to 52 territories.

France’s second-gen lenser Abdel Kechiche, who last year picked up four Cesar’s for his film “L’Esquive” (The Game of Love and Chance) is now at work on another pic for Pathe, while Georgian born French lenser Gela Babluani’s pic “Tsameti” will have its U.K. release in January.

But sales execs agree it’s not about a helmer’s origin. “It’s irrelevant who it is made by and where it comes from. All the decisions we make are based on the quality of the film and whether we liked it,” says Artificial Eye’s Robert Beeson.

More Film

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    Writers Guild Says Over 7,000 Members Have Fired Agents

    Over 7,000 members of the Writers Guild of America have fired their talent agents, the Hollywood union said on Monday. As promised, the guild delivered a first round of termination letters to agents in a show of support for the WGA’s full-on war with the Association of Talent Agents. “Today the Guild delivered a first [...]

  • BRAZILIAN FLAGFRENCH OPEN TENNIS, PARIS, FRANCE

    Brazil’s Ancine Freezes Incentives, Threatening Film-TV Industry Paralysis

    Brazil’s Ancine agency, its foremost public-sector source of film funding, has frozen all of its incentive programs, potentially near paralyzing new production in Latin America’s biggest film-TV industry. The dramatic decision, which has left Brazil’s industry is a state of shock and intense fear for its future, comes as it has taken further hits. In [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez

    Jennifer Lopez Reteams With STXfilms on Romantic-Comedy Co-Starring Owen Wilson

    Jennifer Lopez is reteaming with STXfilms on the upcoming romantic-comedy “Marry Me.” Kat Coiro is directing the film and Owen Wilson is in final negotiations to join the pic, which will likely shoot this fall. The script was written by John Rogers and Tami Sagher, with a rewrite by Harper Dill. Lopez and Wilson both [...]

  • Steve Golin The Revenant Spotlight Producer

    Steve Golin, Prolific Producer and Founder of Anonymous Content, Dies at 64

    Steve Golin, an Oscar-winning producer who was founder and CEO of Anonymous Content, died Sunday in Los Angeles of cancer. He was 64. Golin was a pioneer in blending the business of talent management with production. Anonymous Content, which Golin founded in 1999, worked with a stable of big name artists such as Steven Soderbergh, [...]

  • David Leitch Kelly McCormick

    'Hobbs & Shaw' Director David Leitch, Kelly McCormick Sign First-Look Deal With Universal (EXCLUSIVE)

    Universal Pictures is signing David Leitch, his longtime producing partner, Kelly McCormick and their recently founded 87North Production banner to a first-look production deal. “David and Kelly have established themselves as a distinctive, stylish filmmaking team who can do it all, from contained thrillers to franchise tentpoles,” said Universal’s president Peter Cramer. “We are confident [...]

  • Still from cannes competition film "Parasite"

    Cannes: Bong Joon-ho Says ‘Parasite’ Is Too Local to Win Competition

    Having been partially responsible for the Netflix fall out with the Cannes Film Festival, “Okja” and “Snowpiercer” director Bong Joon-ho returns to Cannes competition this year with conventionally- financed “Parasite.” But the Korean-language film is a tragicomedy that Bong says may be too nuanced for the festival. “Cannes always makes me feel excited, fresh, and [...]

  • Summer Box Office: 'Avengers: Endgame,' 'Lion

    Summer Box Office: Five Weekends to Watch

    Popcorn season is upon us, and it’ll be up to comic-book heroes, a wise-cracking genie, and a lion who would be king to ensure movie theaters are still the hottest place to spend the summer. Last summer, blockbusters like “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” Ocean’s 8,” and “The Meg” drove moviegoers to their [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content