TorinoFilmLab - Training, development, Funding

  Newsletter

Dead Sea

Ihab Jadallah, Juliette Lepoutre, Lucas Rosant

Palestine

synopsis

In a coffee-shop in the centre of Ramallah among a crowd of customers we find Khaled, a nostalgic reporter, Abed, a taxi driver and the cynical Emil, a passionate reader who dreams of being a writer.

It’s the sixth Anniversary of the death of Pr. Arafat, November 2010, in Ramallah. Khaled wants to broadcast a story on his illegal radio station, Emil and Abed are curious about it. Khaled starts telling a secret story of Morad and Firas, two old bodyguards of Arafat, who carried out a mission to bring his body to rest in Jerusalem, as Arafat always dreamt. The 3 friends in the coffee-shop discuss the details of the operation.

Emil has a completely different version of the story and feels a bit worried; he doesn’t want this subject to be published since he is writing a book about it. Abed thinks it’s all a rumour and nothing really happened, it was all an accident; and he is afraid this story will bring them serious problems with the Palestinian authorities. But Khaled insists on opening the discussion, and each one of them fights for his right to hold the truth. Was the body in a coffin, smuggled through a tunnel? As Khaled wants to tell his audience, or was it in a concrete block supposed to be part of the wall? As Emil writes in his investigation book! Or was it in the stolen car with the wooden box inside it, in which the two PR officers went on a trip to the Dead Sea? As Abed rumours! Were Firas and Morad Heroes, Losers, did Firas succeed or fail? Did he stay alive or was he shot and killed?

Some say Firas was seen alive. Others say that his body was seen floating on the waters of the Dead Sea, as nothing can stay long under its murky and salty waters. The three stories intertwine, just like the fantasy of each storyteller, we will travel from one fantasy into another, sometimes confirming and sometimes contradicting each other, making the story an image and a reflection of a conversation held between a radio announcer and his friends.

intention

In 2004 Arafat died; under no circumstances would Arafat be buried in Jerusalem, Sharon said. I remember laughing about the eternal and personal animosity of these two big figures, even after death, cynically its very funny. I thought it would be wonderful to kidnap the body of Arafat and just bury it in Jerusalem, sneaking it under the nose of Sharon. That’s when I realized it could be a good story to tell and so it started as a road movie, a heroic almost action-film.

Each time I took a taxi in the city of Ramallah, I always questioned the driver about possible roads to reach Jerusalem without having to cross any checkpoint or face the wall? Then I would question them about what they thought of Arafat? I was surprised by a common answer: who said that Arafat is dead in the first place! Thinking of Arafat I found myself working - like with any other iconic figure - on such a powerful character, always surrounded by myths and rumours.

In 2007 I realized that the story is not only about kidnapping the body of Arafat, but also and mainly, about the urban legends and stories people tell in the streets and coffee shops. In Dead Sea I want to point out the fact that there are many contradictions in the Palestinian stories about their history, exodus, sacrifices and resistance. Most of these stories end up as legends or myths. I want to question the Palestinian dream. Could it ever become a reality, or will it remain a utopia? And what are its effects on the Palestinian psychology? This dream of freedom and independence can become a mental obsession, creating frustration and claustrophobia. But, this dream can also be a strength that helps you to survive boredom and misery - as well as a disease undermining one’s ability to cope with reality.

Through Dead Sea I would like to give audiences around the world the feeling, for a few hours, that their dreams can come true and they can see it happen in front of their eyes. Even if everybody knows the story of Dead Sea, it will always remain a heroic fantasy with legendary characters: to make the body of Arafat rest eternally in the city of Jerusalem, as he wished.

It is the story of a victory, symbolic and metaphoric. What matters, is not that Arafat is finally buried in Jerusalem, what is important is that it might be true, and that a small place for dreams and hopes still exists. This film is not a pamphlet; it continues to talk about a dream and its possibility of achievement, it’s a symbolic legend that will remain.

budget & financing

MPM Film truly believes that Dead Sea will reach a wide audience, not only through its topic, but also as a pure cinematic object: with emotion, suspense and thrills… To achieve this, we indeed need to be ambitious and face many challenges. One of these challenges is to get a number of Arab partners on board, both artists and financiers; and we are currently in negotiation with several broadcasters and investors from the Gulf and the Middle East who have shown strong interest and support in the project. This latest point is also important for us in the goal of launching a new talent from Palestine, inserting the director into the upcoming and growing new wave of Palestinian Cinema. In parallel, we have also raised interest and are in negotiation with potential European and Canadian partners to participate as co-producers. The TorinoFilmLab is particularly important in helping to launch the financing and, as it is a first feature, to convince financial partners to commit in order for us to close financing by the end of 2011. MPM Film strongly believes in the importance and potential of Dead Sea. This film is not only for Palestinians; it will create a playful mental space for freedom and dreams. Beyond politics, war and misery, here the cinema is a string that intends to bind people together, and a tool to alter their opinion by freeing their imagination.

distribution & sales

Despite its politically heavy context, Dead Sea is as entertaining as it is thought provoking. The subject matter will certainly capture the attention of the media and general public while at the same time, its fresh and humorous vision will appeal to a more savvy audience. We hope to premiere at a major international festival, but the film’s strong sense of humour and lightness of tone will appeal to a broader audience and enable a cinematic release in theatres. It is obvious that the final marketing and promotional strategy will be set up in collaboration with the sales agent, distributors and press attaché attached to the project. In that regard, we intend to secure and launch the collaboration with such partners prior to the shooting in order to start the promotion of the film from that point; both towards the industry and the audience. We are also discussing the possibility of creating and disseminating a rumour with the complicity of our Internet and Press partners; a rumour that the body of Arafat might have indeed been moved away from Ramallah to Jerusalem. Such a rumour would enable a viral propagation of information on the subject and subsequently on Dead Sea, being therefore “based on a true story”, which would trigger a high interest and curiosity rate in the targeted audience towards the film.

When Arafat died it became time to speculate about the true circumstances of the death of this icon.
349-ihab-jadallah
Ihab Jadallah

Scriptwriter, Film Director

427-juliette-lepoutre
Juliette Lepoutre

Sales, Production

jlepoutre@stillmoving.fr

620-lucas-rosant
Lucas Rosant

Production

production notes

original title
Albahr Almaet

directed by
Ihab Jadallah

produced byMPM Films
56 rue du Faubourg Poissonnière
75010, Paris
France

in co-production with
Partners / Support:

Festival d’Amiens
(Fonds d’aide au développement du scenario) 2009

Sanad (Abu Dhabi Development Film Fund) 2010

Binger Filmlab 2009

TorinoFilmLab 2009-2010

EAVE Producers Workshop 2010

total production budget
€ 900.245

current financial need
€ 873.000