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Josef Fares

10 Directors to Watch

VITAL STATS
AGE: 28
BIRTHPLACE: Beirut
PIC INSPIRATION: Bruce Lee movies
AGENT/MANAGER: none

Eighteen years ago, 10-year-old Fares and his family moved from civil war-torn Lebanon to peaceful Sweden. For his parents, it was a big and painful step. For their young son, it was the start of a thrilling journey. Sweden was the country where everything was possible, and Fares took advantage of the possibilities.

Today, he is one of Sweden’s most successful filmmakers. His first two features, the comedies “Jalla! Jalla!” and “Kops,” were critical and box office hits all over Scandinavia and won prizes at festivals. His latest film, “Zozo,” tells the story of a little boy who is forced to leave Lebanon and move to Sweden. It is a heartfelt, serious film that’s racked up around 300,000 admissions, a figure Fares is more than pleased with.

“Autobiographical? Not really, even though it is inspired by my life,” Fares says about the film that is Sweden’s entry for the foreign-language Oscar. “I would lie if I said, ‘That’s not me.’ But the little boy in the film is much prettier and cooler than I was.”

The film was partly shot in Lebanon, and Fares even shot on the street where his family used to live.

“It was surreal. When I was a kid I used to play on the roof there. Now I had actors there and a big crane.”

But he never dreamed of being a filmmaker — he wanted to be a martial arts master, like his hero Bruce Lee. But at 15, he borrowed a video camera, made a short and realized he liked making films. Several shorts later, he was discovered by helmer Lukas Moodysson, who introduced him to the producers at Memfis Film. Fares has been with the company since, with Anna Anthony as his steady producer.

“We have grown together, he as a director, me as a producer,” says Anthony. “He is always full of ideas. When he is on the set, he knows what he wants, but he is always open to listen to other ideas. He is not one of the ‘I know best’ directors.”

Fares loves Hollywood filmmaking, and he knows that one day he will make a film Stateside, although he feels a bit too inexperienced for now. He’d like to make at least two more films in Sweden first. But he adds: “Of course, if someone brings me a terrific script, I might reconsider.”

His dream is to combine classic action with a humanistic touch. “Imagine a combination of John Woo and Ken Loach,” he explains.

For the moment, he is considering ideas for his next pic. Fares would like to shoot in summer but must come up with a script first — and he’ll get to that as soon as all his Oscar commitments wane.

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