Shankaboot actress co-producing film based on Amin Maalouf novel

BEIRUT: Samira Kawas, the lead actress of the first Arabic-language web series "Shankaboot," is working on a new project based on a novel by renowned Lebanese-French writer Amin Maalouf.

This time, however, Kawas will be working behind the camera.

After her success in the Lebanese series that received the 2011 International Digital Emmy Award, Kawas is currently co-producing an adaptation of Maalouf’s bestselling French novel ‘Les Echelles du Levant,’ also known as ‘Ports of Call.’

This would make the film the second international movie based on a Lebanese writer’s original novel, the first being an adaptation of Gibran Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet, in which Kawas was involved as a cultural consultant.

Ron Senkowski, the CEO of Symply Entertainment, and Kawas, the company's vice president, are producing the movie along with Paul-Gordon Chandler, a Cairo-based Episcopal priest who initially obtained the rights from Maalouf after being impressed by the novel.

The movie script, almost entirely based on the text of Maalouf’s book, is now in the final editing phase.

“We are putting the finishing touches on the script,” Kawas told The Daily Star. “We did our best to stay true to Maalouf’s beautiful story and characters, but we only changed what’s necessary to meet drama requirements.”

Both Senkowski and Kawas meet regularly with Maalouf. Through the screenwriting process, the pair insisted on consulting the Paris-based author to make sure things stay on the right track.

“We’ve had several meetings with Maalouf and his wife,” Kawas said. “They’re lovely people, and we visited them many times over the past year to keep them updated with the production process.”

It was announced on Sept. 26 that Oscar-winning director Danis Tanovic is set to adapt the 1996 novel. Tanovic was drawn to the work because he was “fed up with people killing in the name of difference,” referring to the theme of the book.

The drama flick tells the story of a doomed couple, an Ottoman prince and a Jewish woman who meet in Paris during World War II. Their love is challenged when they get separated as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

However, the movie synopsis featured on the production company’s website is not complete. The company wants to avoid spoiling the story, so the ending is being kept a secret until the release.

“I’ve read the book many times,” Kawas said. “The story definitely reflects our reality today.”

The shooting will start at the beginning of next year and will take place in France, Malta and Turkey, and will be recorded in French.

When it comes to choosing the cast, the production company is seeking seasoned actors.

“We’re looking for A-list stars to perform in the movie,” Kawas said. “We can’t reveal any names because no one has signed to star yet, but we’re talking about actors on the same level as Salma Hayek in The Prophet.”

The New York Times reviewed ‘Ports of Call’ as having “one of the most powerfully romantic endings to any story, ever written.” The book has sold over six million copies and has been translated in over 40 languages.

“People say a novel is always better than its movie, but we’re trying to meet people’s expectations with this production,” Kawas said, “hoping that it will end up as good as Maalouf’s wonderful book.”





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