Lamia Chraibi, a leading producer of daring films from the Middle East and North Africa region, is developing “Meskoun,” an ambitious pan-Arab genre-bending series with Moroccan filmmaker Hicham Lasri (“Jahilya”) on board as showrunner.
Chraibi (“Mimosas”) will produce the 14-episode series with her Moroccan banner La Prod, along with Mohamed Hefzy’s Egyptian company Film Clinic, George Shoucair’s Lebanese outfit Abbout Productions and Habib Attia’s Tunisian company Cinetelefilms.
“Meskoun” follows Lotfi, a young man who lost his fiancée and decides to take off to Europe without a permit, and tries crossing the sea. But Lotfi ends up drowning in high waters with seven other illegal immigrants from different nationalities. A month later, he reemerges inhabited by the souls of the seven strangers who drowned with him. In order to free himself from these souls, Lotfi, who has become a sort of unwilling superhero, must accomplish their respective last wish, taking him on a journey across multiple cities in the Arab and African worlds.
The seven souls possessing Lotfi are a Syrian woman, an Algerian repentant terrorist, a former Tunisian cop, a Senegalese man fleeing the war, and others from Libya and Egypt.
Chraibi, who runs the production companies Moon a Deal Films in France and La Prod in Morocco, said she and Lasri started developing the project years ago but it still resonates strongly today as there are so many stories of “boat people” in Australia, illegal African immigrants drowned in the Mediterranean and Syrian refugees.
The “Meskoun” series will bring together a team of screenwriters and directors from the different countries visited by the protagonist who will be spearheaded by Lasri. The project has already lured Tunisian up-and-coming director Mehdi M. Barsaoui, whose feature debut “A Son” premiered at this year’s Venice and won the Orizzonti award for best actor; Mauritania-born director-actor Alassane Sy (“Mediterranea”); and Lebanese helmer Mounia Akl (“Do Not Disturb”).
“The idea with ‘Meskoun’ is to make an anthology with each of the seven souls having its own story told in two episodes in different countries, including Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal and Egypt,” said Chraibi, adding that the series will aim to weave supernatural drama and geo-political issues through stories that audiences around the world will relate to.
Chraibi is attending the Atlas Ateliers, the industry event hosted at the Marrakech Film Festival and curated by Remi Bonhomme from Cannes’ Critics’ Week, with “Mica,” a project directed by Ismael Ferroukhi about a kid from an underprivileged suburb in Morocco who sets off to enter a members-only tennis club in Casablanca.
The producer also attended the conference with Talal Selhami, the filmmaker of the fantasy film “Achoura” who participated in a panel about the rise of genre film from the MENA region. Chraibi is co-producing the film with Morocco’s Overlook Films and her Casablanca-based outfit Moon a Deal Films. The film, which is being represented in international markets by Orange Studios, follows three childhood friends who are reunited following the reappearance of one of their friends who went missing 20 years ago. As they are forced to confront their terrifying past, the trio also comes face to face with a strange creature stemming from a Moroccan folk legend.
“I came on board ‘Achoura’ at a later stage than usual and it marks a departure for me because it’s a genre film and I’m used to making more ‘auteur’ films dealing with social or political issues, but I have worked closely with Talal Selhami to help him find his voice and give the film a depth and singularity,” said Chraibi.
Aside from these fiction projects, Chraibi is producing three documentaries, including Simone Bitton’s “Ziyara,” about a woman who travels to Morocco on a quest to find traces of her Jewish-Moroccan heritage.
A politically engaged producer, Chraibi has also launched Tamayouz, a foundation aiming to help young women studying film break into a male-dominated industry and works in different ways to increase gender equality.