London and Paris-based Film Constellation has taken international sales on Egyptian director Abu Bakr Shawky’s hotly anticipated Saudi-set travel movie “Hajjan,” ahead of its Toronto Film Festival world premiere.
“Hajjan,” which will launch from Toronto’s Discovery section, is a followup to Shawky’s first feature “Yomeddine,” which had the rare distinction of making the competition cut for Cannes.
Somewhat similarly to “Yomeddine” – which involved the desert voyage of a leper, a donkey, and a child – “Hajjan” also involves a journey across the desert, this time embarked upon by a young orphan boy and his beloved camel. The big-budget film, which was shot mostly in the sprawling area situated along Saudi’s Red Sea coast in Tabuk, in the northwest of the kingdom, is about a young boy named Matar who, after the death of his brother on the camel race track, tries to avenge his death. To do so he becomes a camel jockey, only to find himself entangled in a battle for his own freedom.
Saudi newcomer Omar Alatawi plays the lead in a cast comprising veteran Saudi actors Abdelmohsen Al-Nemer (“From A to B,” “Route 10”), Ibrahim Al-Hsawi (“Scales,” “Zero Distance”) and Alshaimaa Tayeb (“Valley Road”) among others.
“Hajjan” is produced by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, known as Ithra, and Egypt’s Mohamed Hefzy via his Film Clinic shingle, and co-produced by Jordan’s Rula Nasser (“Inshallah a Boy,” “Holy Spider”) through her The Imaginarium Films.
The film’s top notch creative team comprises César-winning composer Amine Bouhafa (“Timbuktu”), director of photography Gerry Vasbenter (“The Death of Stalin”), screenwriter Omar Shama (“After the Battle”), and co-writer (with Abu Bakr Shawky) Mufarrij Almajfel (“Zero Distance,” “The Tambour of Retribution”).
The “Hajjan” project germinated from Ithra’s head of performing arts and cinema Majed Z. Samman, who created the concept and has a producer credit.
“We are delighted to support an exciting Arab talent in Abu Bakr Shawky, who has crafted a thrilling adventure across the Arabian desert, offering a unique viewpoint into these ancestral traditions never before seen on the silver screen,” said Film Constellation head of acquisitions Edward Parodi in a statement.
Hefzy commented: “We are delighted to launch sales of Hajjan with Film Constellation, a company with a great track record and impeccable taste. With three films from Saudi Arabia at TIFF, and so many Arab films launching in Venice and Cannes this year, films from the region are undoubtedly gaining more visibility and interest on the international scene.”
Other titles in Film Constellation’s fall slate include Venice doc “Ryuichi Sakamoto Opus,” Venice Days closer “Coup!,” starring Peter Sarsgaard, and Isabel Coixet’s “Un Amor,” which will launch from San Sebastian.