‘To a Land Unknown’ at Red Sea Festival

“To a Land Unknown,’ About Palestinian Refugees in Greece, Set to Close Financing at Red Sea Festival”

Dec 11th, 2023

For the producers of an international co-production about Palestinian refugees in Athens the Hamas attack on Israel Oct. 7 and subsequent bombardment and invasion of Gaza by Israeli forces looked as if it might derail the project.


But although the conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 1,200 Israelis and over 15,500 Palestinian has impacted the shooting of the Palestine/U.K./Greece and European co-production ‘To A Land Unknown’ (working title “Men in the Sun”) the project — which is due to close financing at the Red Sea Film Festival this week — is on course to finish post-production in London by May next year in time for a premiere at what producer Geoff Arbourne will only say will be “a major international film festival.”


“There was consternation when the conflict started, but in the end production, which started five weeks ago, was only delayed by a day,” U.K.-based Arbourne of Inside Out Films, told Variety at the festival.


“We started shooting in Athens a week ago and shall wrap by mid-December, when post-production begins in London.”


The film, directed by Dubai-born Mahdi Fleifel, is about two Palestinian refugees living in Athens who become embroiled in a hostage situation after seeking to take revenge on the people smugglers who ripped them off.


It draws on Fleifel’s experience of documenting the lives of refugees living on the margins of Greek society over the past decade.

The film — which will be released under a different, yet to be decided, title — is backed by ARTE/ZDF, the Doha Film Institute, Red Sea Fund and national funds in the Netherlands and Greece among others.


With all but $90,000 of its just over $1 million budget already in place, Arbourne is confident that financing will be closed this week in Jeddah.


“We have eight minutes of the film to show to prospective buyers, and have already been talking to global sales agents, such as Goodfellas and MK2, and distributors in the MENA region, such as CineWaves and Front Row, to finalize finance,” he said.


Although the war in Gaza failed to upend the project, it has had a personal impact on Palestinian members of its cast and crew, Arbourne said.


“Because of the war we had trouble getting some crew and non-actors to Athens, and for those who were able to come the conflict is a daily presence. We have people on set with family members in Gaza who are dying during this war.”


“We have to be sensitive and make sure people on the set are supported and have a place to talk about what is happening.”


He added that although the film touches upon two highly political topics — refugees and the plight of the Palestinians — it aims to showcase the universal story of what life is like for exiles.


“I do not think this is a ‘Palestinian’ film – it is a film about exiles in general. The world is now dealing with this topic — from Ukraine to Palestine. What an audience really wants is to understand the condition of live for exiles.”

This article is from Variety and is republished under a creative commons license.

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