The dark comedy, conceived before the Covid pandemic, is set against the backdrop of mass panic when a mutant virus known as ARS breaks out in Israel.
MENA-based distributor and producer Front Row Filmed Entertainment has acquired the regional rights for British-Palestinian filmmaker Basil Khalil’s first feature, A Gaza Weekend, from London-based sales and production outfit Protagonist Pictures.
The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this September and is also set to premiere in the MENA at the second edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah, KSA, in December.
This marks the third collaboration between Khalil and Front Row, as the company previously distributed his Academy Award and Palme D’Or Nominated short Ave Maria, which debuted in Cannes in 2015 and has also recently boarded Nour Shams, a short by Saudi filmmaker Faiza Ambah and produced by Khalil.
Produced by British-Emirati Amina Dasmal and exec produced by Robin C. Fox, A Gaza Weekend is set in a world where Israel is sealed off after a deadly virus outbreak and Gaza has become the safest place in the region. A British journalist (Stephen Mangan) and his Israeli girlfriend (Mouna Hawa) then find themselves stuck on the wrong side of the border, needing the help of two Palestinian street merchants who promise them a way out in exchange for cash. The film also stars Palestinian actors Adam Bakri and Maria Zreik.
Front Row has long been championing Arabic films globally for years, having previously curated the “Palestinian Stories” collection for Netflix, as well as a list of 44 contemporary and classic Arabic titles including the works of legendary filmmakers such as Youssef Chahine, Maroun Baghdadi, Nadine Labaki and many more. The company also produced the Arabic adaptation of Perfect Strangers, which was released in early 2022.
Commenting on the deal, Gianluca Chakra, CEO of Front Row, said: “A Gaza Weekend is a terrific feature and one of the best films to come out of TIFF this year. It’s heartwarming to see Arabic films travel and be noticed at the highest level. We’re thrilled to be teaming up with Basil again and can’t wait for people in the Middle East to watch this absolute gem of a film.”
Basil Khalil added: “I am thrilled to be partnering with Front Row on A Gaza Weekend. We made a bold and unapologetic in-your-face crowdpleaser and couldn’t think of a better partner in the Middle East who is just as bold, understands the film, and has such a wide reach in the region. I look forward to sharing our unique film with the public in the coming months.”
Jonathan Walik, Protagonist’s Sales Manager, stated: “After being a much talked about hit with festival goers and critics at TIFF, we’re so excited audiences in the Middle East will finally get to experience the hilarious gem that is A Gaza Weekend. We are thrilled to be partnering up with Front Row once more.”
A Gaza Weekend will release in the MENA region in 2023. Protagonist Pictures handling international sales.