Screen Daily 12 December 2012
Quartet behind 2007 road move shot against backdrop of 2006 Lebanese War reunites for comedy, provisionally entitled London Haram.
UK producer Paul Raphael is reuniting with Lebanese director Philippe Aractingi and actor Georges Khabbaz for an English-language comedy set in London, provisionally entitled London Haram.
The trio previously collaborated on Under the Bombs, the tragicomic road movie shot against the backdrop of the 2006 Lebanese war, which won the Muhr Award for Best Actress and Best Film in DIFF in 2007.
Maya Hariri of Paris-based Rhamsa Productions, who boarded Under the Bombs at the post-production stage, financing the completion of the film, is also co-producing.
“Khabbaz is a sort of Roberto Benigni, Rowan Atkinson of the Middle East – he’s a great comedian,” said Raphael. “Under the Bombs was his first straight role… the film was such a great experience that we’ve always said we want to work together again.”
Khabbaz will star as a provincial Middle Eastern man who goes to London to claim an inheritance left by a wealthy uncle. He discovers his uncle’s restaurant business was a front for a chain of strip joints.
A series of farcical events is set in motion when the uncle’s Iranian right-hand man tries to palm off the nephew with a token payment so he can pocket the inheritance. Casting is underway for the right-hand man character and is expected to be announced in early 2013. Raphael said the film should shoot in second half of 2013.
Aractingi has co-written the script for the comedy, provisionally entitled London Haram, with British writer Ben Hopkins, with the backing of a British Film Institute development grant. The film is budgeted at $4m.
In other news, Raphael said he had recently finished financing Hopkins upcoming feature A Miracle, a co-prouction between Starfield’s London-based sister company Har, owned by Hariri, and Rhamsa.
He said the farcical road movie about an impoverished English teacher who takes on a job to repatriate a dead body from the Georgian-Turkish border is scheduled to shoot in winter 2013. Germany’a Flying Moon is co-producing and Screen Yorkshire and BFI are also on board as backers.
Raphael is also producing John Hodge’s adaptation of Vkias Swarup’s novel Six Suspects, which Pablo Trapero recently signed to direct, alongside Working Title.