Cedar turns to musical comedy

'Beaufort' made its competition bow in Berlin

Israeli helmer Joseph Cedar is giving war a miss with his next pic.

He’s swapping the serious message of “Beaufort,” about the Israeli army’s hasty withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, for an as-yet-untitled musical comedy in English and Hebrew, and partly lensed in Israel.

“Beaufort” made its competition bow here Wednesday and Cedar, at the press confab with producer David Silber, thesps Oshri Cohen, Itay Tiran, Eli Eltonyo and co-scribe Ron Leshem, batted away numerous questions about pic’s political leanings with all the skill of a seasoned politico.

“We had modest pretensions. We didn’t want to put one specific political message out,” said Cedar. “If anything, the film is a cry for help. We were fuelled by knowing we were doing something life or death.”

Pic, being handled by Bavaria Film, has been sold to J-Bics in Thailand and there is strong interest from buyers in the U.K., France and Italy.

While Bavaria execs are confident about wrapping up those deals imminently, “we’re being quite picky about U.S. sale because we believe this story has a strong potential there,” said Bavaria Film Intl. topper Thorsten Ritter.

“Beaufort” wrapped in June, only a month before the outbreak of war between Israel and Hezbollah, and is based on the novel by Leshem, whose uncle died in the first week of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

The irony of “Beaufort,” depicting the end of Israel’s 18-year misadventure in Lebanon, being made just as conflict erupted again hasn’t persuaded Cedar to return for a follow-up.

“I’m done with this story. I’d be extremely curious to see a Lebanese version of these episodes,” he said.

Cedar may get his wish with Philippe Aractingi’s “After the Summer Rain.”

Lebanese helmer, who scored country’s biggest hit last year with “Bosta,” is in post with a project that follows a Lebanese woman’s hunt for her missing son during the recent war.

International co-production is getting coin from London-based Starfield Prods. and France’s Maybe Movies. U.K. distrib Maiden Voyage has bought theatrical rights, with Arte handling pic in France and Arab shingle ART releasing pic in the Mideast.

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