Zurich-based First Hand Films has snapped up the Norwegian documentary “Trust Me” – about a Justin Bieber concert fraudster. The film is directed by Emil Trier, co-director with his brother Joachim Trier of “The Other Munch,” showcased at New York’s Lincoln Center in 2018.
The pic produced by Thomas Robsahm and Nicolai Moland for Motlys (“Louder Than Bombs,” “Home Ground”), with co-production partner Zentropa Sweden, is world premiering at the Nordic:DOX competition strand of Denmark’s leading documentary festival CPH:DOX, running April 21-May 12.
“Trust Me” is a stranger than fiction true story echoing “Catch Me If You Can.” The documentary chronicles the startling rise and fall of young Norwegian entrepreneur of Pakistani descent Waleed Ahmed, currently serving an 11-year prison sentence in the U.S. for international fraud.
Once a media darling, hailed as “Norway’s Mark Zuckerberg” at the age of 20 for supposedly inventing a solar energy mobile, Ahmed fooled everyone in Norway before moving to brighter skies and new scams in L.A. When one of his victims turned to the FBI after Ahmed tried to bilk him out of $1 million for fake-exclusive rights to Justin Bieber concerts, the Norwegian fraudster’s dreams of making it in the Forbes list came to a halt in 2012 when he was arrested at San Francisco International Airport.
Robsahm and Moland said “Trust Me” has many layers that makes it a perfect pick for global viewers. “Waleed Ahmed’s frauds gained him access to some of the highest places of political, cultural and financial power. Norwegian and Middle Eastern royalty, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and a U.S. media tycoon were all part of his network,” the producers stressed, mentioning as well the universal dimension of a young man from an ethnic minority trying to fit it and make it big.
First Hand Films’ CEO Esther van Messel, who helped pre-finance the pic, said she believed in “Trust Me” because of the intriguing story, talented filmmaker, and Motlys team with whom she has a long-standing relationship. “Also, it’s always best if twists and turns define a narrative and surprise the audience,” observed the sales executive, who expects the documentary “to crossover and to find a great U.S. distributor.”
“Trust Me” received co-financing from pubcasters DR in Denmark, Yle in Finland, SVT in Sweden, Fritt Ord, support from the Norwegian Film Institute, the Swedish Film Institute and Nordisk Film & TV Fond. Arthaus will handle the release in Norway and TriArt in Sweden.
First Hand Films’ CPH:DOX slate also includes the Finnish hit “Lost Boys,” screening in the main DOX:Award program, which is attracting interest in several territories such as Japan and Israel, according to van Messel.
Meanwhile the highly anticipated Norwegian music doc “A-ha – The Movie,” co-directed by Thomas Robsahm and Aslaug Holm, is due to premiere locally in June.