TorinoFilmLab - Training, development, Funding



Samir Eshra, Daniela Praher

Austria, Egypt


Like any Egyptian woman of her age, Dina (28), eagerly awaits to get married. But she lives in Imbaba, a poor and rough district of Cairo suffering from unemployment and a drugs trade. Suitors change their mind once they find out where she lives. Whereas Dina, a managing editor in a news agency and a PhD student, refuses to marry a man from her neighborhood. She doesn’t find them up to her standards.

Dina’s family and social environment start putting pressure on her to marry. Out of desperation, she accepts the proposal of a 45 year-old businessman. But the groom’s mother refuses the engagement: she suspects Dina might have had relations with men before.
Being at a loss, Dina anonymously writes to a reader’s column in a newspaper, describing her problems. Later on Dina gets engaged to Salah, a trustable man she meets on an Islamic marriage website. Unexpectedly, Dina’s letter to the newspaper gets published and her life is turned upside down. She starts receiving marriage proposals from engineers, doctors and professors who admire her frankness.

Dina breaks off her engagement to Salah and sets up an appointment with one of the men who proposed to her – not knowing whether or not he will come to Imbaba.


In 2007, as a student, I moved to Cairo. After searching for an apartment for a long time, I settled in a district located in the heart of the capital, close to the university where the rents were relatively low. That was Imbaba: a poor and repellent quarter of Cairo, sheltering hawkers, homeless people and criminals; an area long forgotten by the government.

I discovered that most of Imbaba’s inhabitants claimed to live in one of the luxurious districts nearby, separated from Imbaba only by a pedestrian bridge built over the train tracks. Imbaba had fallen into oblivion due to the government’s negligence, which led to the spread of bullying, drug trade and poverty. I avoided inviting friends over for fear of them misjudging me once they knew where I really lived.
Three years ago, I read a message sent to the Al-Ahram newspaper’s weekly column, which discussed social problems of anonymous writers. A woman living in Imbaba wrote that the name of the district carried a social stigma and made her a less desirable potential wife for men from outside Imbaba. Moreover, the district was going from bad to worse, compared to when her family first moved there. Her father considered selling their house and to relocate in order to increase his daughter’s chances of getting married; an idea she rejected, but her father kept insisting. The woman was wondering what else she could do.

I remembered the feelings I had when living in Imbaba. The woman’s case seemed complicated because her education and career made her part of Egypt’s modern society but she still had to live in Imbaba.
To me, all this perfectly reflected Egypt’s “fake society”, which is only interested in appearance and deception instead of honesty and personal qualities as a result of the last four decades of corruption, ignorance and economic liberalization.

This woman seemed somehow trapped to me. I asked myself if she would be able to evolve within the society surrounding her that insisted on a traditional concept of life. And: What kind of ideals could she believe in then? Would she become part of the “fake society”, or would she decide to live differently than the people around her? And finally: What would this woman be willing to do to find “the right” husband?

distribution & sales

Daniela Praher Filmproduktion was founded in 2011 in Vienna, Austria. Initially, the company developed and produced documentaries and short films. Now it is turning towards producing fiction feature films and international co-productions. When I learned that a young male Egyptian director wanted to make a feature film about marriage from a female perspective, it immediately aroused my interest. In Egypt, being a 28-year-old woman who is unmarried means that you have somehow been rejected by the majority of society. Often women get urged to marry young, even by their own families, sometimes in arranged marriages. The status of the future husband is of high importance. In present-day Egypt, origin, social class and education still define the opportunities concerning one’s future. The previous short fiction films by Samir Eshra reflect human diversity and themes like injustice and social issues. His first feature film Imbaba, is set in the poor district of the same name in the middle of Cairo; Imbaba is a melting pot of inhabitants of all ages and from all walks of life. Over the past two years I have gained an insight into the complexities of Egyptian society. In March 2011 – soon after the Arab Spring events – Austrian director Alexandra Schneider and I began working on our documentary about four young Egyptian women entitled Young, Female, Egyptian. We decided not just to make another “revolution documentary”, but to portray four very different women fighting for their ideals and dreams. In cooperating with Egyptian film professionals and production companies, I learned what it meant to shoot in an Arab country. All of my experiences led to the conclusion that I want to continue working in Egypt! Imbaba is in the development stage. We are seeking European and Arab funds for writing the screenplay, doing research and preparing a test shoot in Imbaba. As soon as the development financing is secured, we will, besides finalising the script, start with casting and preproduction. For the production and post-production, we will apply to European and Arab funds. We intend to collaborate with European and Arab production companies. We are looking for co-producers; for example an Egyptian co-producer could be a good combination. We expect to find the financing in Europe and the Arab world mainly through public funding and TV presales and/or TV co-productions. Currently, the western world is paying close attention to the Arab world. Therefore it is very important to work with Arab filmmakers tell their stories giving an insight into their present society’s situation. Regarding distribution and sales, I see a great international potential for Imbaba. Together with a sales company we want to release the feature film in Egypt and at major international film festivals, in cinemas, via VoD and TV with a special focus on the Arab market. The film targets adults - women and men - aged 20 and older, especially in Egypt but furthermore in Arab countries and Europe who are interested in socio-political topics and in gender aspects. The young audience will like to see the story of an independent woman who tries to find ways to live within the restricitons of origin and gender; older people will focus on the generational and family issues. The impact we seek on the audience is that they discuss the topic of traditional marriage and the perspectives of a 28 year-old woman living in present-day Egypt.

In Cairo, when you live in Imbaba, finding a husband can become an ordeal.
Samir Eshra

Film Director

Daniela Praher


production notes

directed by
Samir Eshra

produced byDaniela Praher Filmproduktion
Karajangasse 4/13
1200, Vienna

total production budget
€ 700.000

current financial need
€ 700.000