Amanda Sthers, an acclaimed novelist and playwright who last directed Harvey Keitel, Toni Collette and Rossy de Palma in “Madame,” is completing her third film, the English-language family drama “Holy Lands.” Studiocanal is repping in international markets.
For “Holy Lands,” Sthers assembled a cast headlined by James Caan, Tom Hollander, Rosanna Arquette, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Efrat Dor. Now in post, the movie shot mainly in Israel, including the holy sites in Jerusalem as well as the Dead Sea, and in Belgium.
“Holy Lands” follows Harry Rosenmerck (Caan), a Jewish-American cardiologist who left everything behind to become a pig farmer in Israel, including his estranged son David (Meyers), a successful gay playwright, his daughter Annabelle (Dor), who’s still studying at age 30, and their mother (Arquette), his ex-wife who decides to revisit their love story after finding out she is terminally ill. Harry is faced to deal with life and face its outcome head-on with the former “enemy” of his farm: rabbi Moshe Cattan (Hollander) .
“Holy Lands” is produced by Didier Lupfer at Studiocanal and Alain Pancrazi at Made in PM. Studiocanal will introduce the film to buyers in Berlin next year.
Speaking to Variety, Sthers said her novel “Holy Lands” has “triggered vivid reactions from readers around the world because of its universal depiction of a dysfunctional family struggling to express their love for one another and accept each other the way they are.”
Sthers first wrote the script based on her book in French and had not initially planned to direct it. But she faced some challenges to raise the financing in France because she was told the subject matter, a Jewish family, wasn’t marketable enough. She then decided to re-write the script in English, take on the directing and reconnected with the head of Studiocanal in the U.S. who put her in touch with the veteran casting director Bonnie Timmermann, who then pulled together the cast.
“This is my most personal film and it’s the one that’s made me the most proud because it’s sincere. It reflects my own flaws and vulnerability,” said Sthers.
The filmmaker said working with this cast, in particular Caan, was an enlightening experience, and said she will likely work with Meyers again because they are on the same wavelength and understand each other perfectly.
Sthers said that while “Madame” was a romantic comedy with social bend, “Holy Lands” has a political dimension because it talks about the impact of religion on our lives, as well as on the social ladder.