'Luxor', the second film by NYU Film School graduate Zeina Durra, the first film in a partnership between Dubai based Front Row Filmed Entertainment and Cairo’s Film Clinic has now completed filming in Egypt.
First reported by Screen Daily in March, the Egypt-set romance stars UK actress Andrea Riseborough and French-Lebanese actor Karim Saleh.
For London born Durra, Luxor is her second film after The Imperialists are Still Alive! (2010) - a satire about Arabs in America which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Her new film tells the story of a British aid worker stationed at the Jordan-Syria border, who heads to the ancient city of Luxor for a break and rekindles a relationship with an archaeologist.
Gianluca Chakra and Hisham Al Ghanim are co-producing the movie under their Front Row banner, alongside Mohamed Hefzy of Film Clinic. Dubai based Front Row has long been the premier film distributor in the region and is now venturing into production with a slate of new projects hitting the floors. Luxor will be followed by the Arabic-language remake of the Italian smash hit Perfect Strangers.
Film Clinic founded by Egyptian producer Mohamed Hefzy has been responsible for producing globally well received Arabic films including Cannes selections Clash (2016) and Yomeddine (2018). In February, Hefzy was named Arab Personality of the Year by the Arab Cinema Center.
Speaking to Digital Studio ME, Chakra commented on the partnership, "Film Clinic and Front Row complete each other where one party has indeed an extensive notion when it comes to local production while our expertise relies on film distribution across the MENA as well as internationally. Blending both worlds to us is a winning formula."
Regarding the decision to back the project Chakra said, "This is a universal story that can and will appeal to both world and given the fact that the film will be in dual language with an acclaimed cast and a director that has premiered her first film at the Sundance Film festival. It’s hopefully going to be one of those films that will have a healthy festival run across the world maximizing its publicity and exposure worldwide."
The collaboration between these two Middle East film industry heavyweights has the potential to be a defining partnership in the development of local film production and distribution in the region. Front Row and Film Clinic hope to bring in a combined distribution and financing model that helps Middle East film productions become more viable. The co-producers will also work together to distribute the film across the MENA region.
The guarantee of cinema distribution at the financing stage will greatly improve the chances of the project scoring a TV or streaming rights deal. Films that enjoy international recognition through a good festival run or a theatrical release in regional cinemas have a better chance of securing distribution for home viewing.
The influence of streaming video services like Netflix is leading to the end of the traditional 90-day cinematic window for feature films before they are available for home viewing.
Film distributors now expect to secure a home viewing deal at an earlier stage, which hopefully for local producers means more projects can be greenlighted as feasible projects. Middle East production houses will, therefore, be more willing to back independent films from local filmmakers which have until now struggled to find a market in the region.
Speaking to The National, Hefzy said: "We have always considered Front Row a leading distributor in the region, but now they are effectively co-production partners on this and other projects."