TorinoFilmLab - Training, development, Funding


Musical Chairs

Azza El Hassan, Meike Martens, Serge Lalou

Palestine, Jordan, Germany


Abu Dahab is a cautious man. He always manages to survive, keeping his
secrets close to his heart. This is why he is reluctant, when little Ali asks him to smuggle Karam out of the camp.
Karam dreams of going to the States and start a life there; she will finally reunite with her little son, Sanad. Yet, she doesn’t know, that her last day as a TV journalist will end with her being stuck in an Israeli siege, unable to fulfill her dream.
The Israeli closure has been imposed ahead of time due to fears of possible attacks during the Purim festivities in which Israelis celebrate the day Jews won over oppression in ancient Persia. As Karam watches the Purim festivities on TV, she wonders: “They celebrate in happiness while my life stops”.
For the past 10 years, Abu Dahab, an infamous thief has dug tunnels from his house, into Israeli cities, where he would go looting. When Abu Dahab reveals his tunnels to Karam, she immediately rushes through the Tel-Aviv tunnel, where the airport is. Yet, to her disappointment, the tunnel is not completed. “Don’t worry. Tel Aviv is only a few digs away. If we dig all night and day, you will be out in time for your flight” he reassures her.
As they dig, Karam and Abu Dahab bond by revealing the turning points in their lives to each other. Abu Dahab recalls the first tunnel he dug and Karam remembers her husband who left her and immigrated while she took care of her sick father, who died recently. As for Ali, he paints their dreams and his own on the tunnel’s grey walls.
When it is ready, Abu Dahab, Karam and Ali disguise themselves to blend in among the Israelis and emerge into a masquerade street parade. Among the cross-dressed crowd and clown-like kids, Abu Dahab is now a Hasidic Jew, Karam a Native American - and Ali, he returns to the refugee camp; it is not his time.
In Tel Aviv, Karam heads to the airport. Transformed by the experience of existing in a tunnel, she glances at the masquerade, leaving it behind, a world where Abu Dahab blends in among the crowd that is oblivious to his identity.


In a situation of war, the line between fiction and reality is blare. Therefore many elements in Musical Chairs are borrowed from reality. The world of underground tunnels and their diggers is rich with details: an air compressor is a must to ensure that you can breathe well; tunnel diggers map out their routes well, using a periscope and a compass to ensure they are digging in the right direction. Tunnels are the lifelines of Gaza city, which has been under siege for a long time. Many essential goods, like food and medicine, would not be available, if it wasn’t for the tunnels.

Yet, Musical Chairs is a film about dreams more than reality. Karam dreams of having a normal life with no war or occupation; Ali, dreams of the world he paints, while Abu-Dahab dreams of the “goods” he steals.

In order to be able to escape from their reality, our film characters pretend to be “the other”, “the enemy”.
The film narrative soon reveals that our protagonists are obsessed by “the other”; it is as if the characters can no longer define themselves, except by relating to “the other”.

The visual world is confined: narrow alleys in a refugee camp, an underground tunnel, and a dark, dim environment juxtaposed with a world of fantasies and flashbacks. Although the flashbacks are real life past events, they become like a fantasy the moment they are remembered. After all, when we remember events, we imagine them; our memory enriches them, in order to make them bearable.

The story of Musical Chairs is an attempt to deal with a surreal reality, which the audience is asked to question. The film examines the dynamics of engaging in a struggle; our protagonists dig in order to be transformed; they dig to make sense of their world, as they become “the other”, which is simply fulfilling a game of musical chairs.

budget & financing

Serge Lalou (Les Films d’Ici, Paris) Meike Martens (Blinker Filmproduktion, Cologne) and Habib Bel Hedi (Familia Production, Tunis) have teamed up for the co-production of Musical Chairs. The project is in the development phase, for which we have secured € 53.000 from Germany and Jordan. The total production budget is estimated to be at € 2.218.854. Our financing strategy in France is to target funds (Fonds Sud, Fondation Gan), broadcasters (Arte France, Canal+, Orange, Cinecinema), French regions, and theatrical distributors. Together, we’ll apply for Eurimages funding and the French German Mini-treaty as well as introducing the project to international sales agents. In Germany, the strong regional funding of the Filmstiftung NRW as well as national funds (DFFF, WCF) and theatrical distributors will be approached. Familia Production will apply to the Dubai Film Competition, Gothenburg Film Fund, the Global Film Initiative and looking for funds in Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Jordan. Production is set to start in the middle of 2010.

distribution & sales

We know that Musical Chairs has a genuine international potential. This has been confirmed by the number of co-producers involved and by the project’s selection by well-established festivals and workshops such as: the TorinoFilmLab, the Binger Filmlab, the Media Film Lab the Carthage Film Festival, the Berlin Talent Project Market, Producers Network and the No Borders section of the IFP in New York. Each producer will try to secure funding and distribution in his own territory as soon as possible, especially broadcasters, in order to make Musical Chairs eligible for Eurimages. Through its clever storytelling, Musical Chairs tackles the concrete situation of a Palestinian reality that we’ve heard of, but don’t necessarily know. For the protagonists to live out their absolute and crazy dreams, they have to undergo a transformation, which starts by digging a tunnel, a highly symbolic element. Through this process, they not only have time to get to know themselves and their “enemy”, they will somehow get to resemble “him”. Musical Chairs explores the surviving of war through dreaming and suggests that getting to know the other is part of a conflict’s solution.

At the end of the tunnel, the masquerade of the oppressed begins.
Azza El Hassan

Scriptwriter, Film Director

Meike Martens


Serge Lalou


production notes

original title
Karasi Mosikia

directed by
Azza El Hassan

produced byBlinker Filmproduktion GmbH
4711 Haus 3 Etage Venloer str 241-245
50823, Cologne

in co-production with
Les Films d’Ici - France

Familia Productions - Tunisia

total production budget
€ 2.218.900