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Kawthar

Samer Ghorayeb, Firas Khnaisser, Tinatin Kajrishvili
Lebanon/Georgia

synopsis

Kawthar, a Syrian maid of a bourgeois Christian family in Beirut, is now 33. She was 16 when she became the mistress of the manipulative patriarch Pierre, in his fifties. She now governs the house and the family as if they are her own. She’s like a mother to his children, both in their twenties, but she yearns to have kids of her own.

Her world crumbles when Pierre’s wife Nawal, newly recovered from a long bout of depression, exposes Kawthar and Pierre’s affair to the children, by playing them a steamy conversation of the two she’d recorded. Devastated, Kawthar has no choice but to leave yet she’s stunned when Pierre offers her a flat and promises to marry her.

She loves her new flat but she starts feeling lonely as Pierre’s visits become scarcer. She misses the children. She desperately tries to reach them but they reject her. She seeks the help of family friends but they refuse to assist her. She feels abandoned. When she realises that Pierre’s reason for giving her the flat is to maintain a sexual relationship, she feels used and betrayed. Ashamed of who she has become and determined to let go of her miserable past, she leaves the flat, never to return.

script & intention

I have fond childhood memories of having a maid around the house. The foreign maids that have lived with us in Lebanon were usually very caring and loved me like I was their own son. I always grew attached to them, and when they left I would be completely devastated…until the next maid came along.

Reflecting on the subject of maids, I couldn’t help but notice the many roles they played in our family home. Some would act motherly, some sisterly and others would get carried away and act like the lady of the house. I always wondered how they felt after they left, when they were faced with their new reality, often as foreigners in a strange land. I later learned that the most excruciating realisation maids make when they leave a family in Lebanon is that they also leave their identities behind.

Being Lebanese, I know for a fact that in order to be accepted in society I need be associated with a group of people. This could be a familial, territorial, religious, social or political group, but I must absolutely be seen as being part of one. Why? Because everyone else is. In Lebanon, we identify ourselves by our groups and our affiliations, before we identify ourselves with our flag. The reasons for this?
I believe it is because we have no consensus on national identity and because groups offer the support and protection that the country’s institutions fail to provide. Consider: when a maid belongs to a family she falls under their protection. While she is with them, they offer her security and stability, but when she leaves she loses their sponsorship and with it she loses all the privileges she earns from being part of the family group. She becomes an outcast.

I empathise with the maid. I too am shut out from society but for different reasons. I choose not to identify with a particular group, but like the maid I too want to belong: she to a family, and me to my nation. Her goal is tangible, whereas my struggle is with something more abstract. I have to figure out how to belong to a nation. that suffers from a multiple identity disorder. The maid’s issue is resolved when she finds a new job, whereas my search has just begun…

budget & financing

Gemini Producing Centre is based in Georgia and is mostly involved in international co-productions. Looking at opening a branch in Beirut, Lebanon, dedicated to the project Kawthar which is set to be a Georgian-Middle Eastern-European co-production.

The budget of the film is 600,000 Euro. The project is in the early development stage and is scheduled for release in 2012. We plan to find support from International funds: Fonds Sud Cinema, Visions Est Sud, Hubert Bals, World Cinema Fund, Goteborg Film Festival fund and also from local private investors. 

We hope to start fundraising in 2011. Assuming that it will take one year to get the budget together, this means we could start preproduction in early 2012.

We are applying to different co-production markets in Europe and Asia to find co-producers and refine the project together with international experts, which we hope will help to develop our project and market the film. 

The main part of the shoot will take place in Beirut (all exteriors), but interiors can be shot in other countries. We will work together with an international crew and cast, who have been involved in some of our outstanding low budget film productions.

distribution & sales

I understand the difficulties of marketing a director’s first feature film, but I am sure that both Khnaisser and Ghorayeb’s outstanding visual style and their passion towards their homeland will allow us to create a moving experience for worldwide audiences. The main character is Kawthar, in her early 30s, she’s a maid in a Lebanese family. She shares the fate of other maids, staying unnoticeable during her job, but one occasion changes her life and the life of the family, which leads her to be finally alone.  

As our film will be executed on a low budget, we can’t really count on a stellar cast, our main selling point is the story, its genre and the country, which will charm audiences with its unique atmosphere. 

I believe that this film will join the rank of a handful of Lebanese films that do not discuss the Lebanese civil war but rather focus on the inner conflicts of its people. The so called “conflict zones” have given us some of the best stories, filled with inner tension, passion and a struggle for existence. 

Bringing together Georgia and Lebanon, two countries with many conflicts, and making them do a film together is the most charming part of this project which will prove to be even more attractive as we get closer to the release. 

Based on past experience, I always try to have a sales agent involved at a very early stage of development. Their advice, while working on script, helps us in marketing the film at a later stage. 

We are currently looking for co-producers, sales agents and TV pre-sales worldwide. 

Please note that the projects' and participants' information present on this website are last updated when the Book of Projects of the year of participation at TorinoFilmLab is published. These information might therefore not correspond to the latest version of the project or to the latest bio of the participants. To receive the most current materials, please contact participants directly.

production notes

production company
Producing Center Gemini
Tinatin Kajrishvili
7 Svanidze str. Tbilisi
0179, Georgia
T +995 97 20 25 50
gemini@gemini.ge

 

total production budget
€ 600,000

 

production status
in development 

Links

Samer Ghorayeb
Lebanon
Film Director, Scriptwriter

Firas Khnaisser
Lebanon
Film Director, Scriptwriter

Tinatin Kajrishvili
Georgia
Producer

promoted by
Torino Film Festival Museo Nazionale del Cinema Film Commission Torino Piemonte
supported by
MIBAC Regione Piemonte Città di Torino MEDIA Creative Europe
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