The Egyptian film industry is ruled by a clutch of players that typically act as producers, distributors and exhibitors, churning out comedies that dominate the local box office. Adel Adeeb, managing director of indie Good News Group, can add a fourth arm - directing - to the list. He is also a consummate PR man, with an infectious enthusiasm and absolute faith in his projects - perhaps with good reason.
In 2006, Marwan Hamed's controversial feature debut The Yacoubian Building became the most expensive production in Egyptian history. Produced by Good News, it debuted at the Berlinale, took $4.8m at the local box office and, unusually for an Egyptian film, saw wide international sales (by BAC Films).
Last month Adeeb went into production on The Baby Doll Night, a shoot set to trump Yacoubian in budget - $5m - and scale. Other productions on Good News' slate include Osama Bin Laden/Ayman Al Zawahiri-themed film Al Qaeda, the $12m biopic Mohammad Ali Pasha, and Hamed's second feature, Ibrahim Al Abyad, a co-production with BAC.
"Baby Doll is the most sophisticated, most international production to come out of Egypt," claims Adeeb. Shooting on location in Cairo, New York, Washington, and in Canada, Syria and Turkey, it features a huge cast and an international crew. Post will be done in France. Adeeb is directing the film, based on a screenplay by his father Abdel Hay Adeeb, who died in June.
"We wanted to make this film as a tribute to him. We're chasing Cannes, hence the urgency," says Adeeb.
The film's executive producers include French DoP and producer Daniel Champagnon, who worked with Roman Polanski on The Pianist and Oliver Twist. The two-hour comedy is being shot by UK DoP Hong Manley.
Set over one night, The Baby Doll Night sees lead character Hossam set to return to Cairo for New Year's Eve after a year's separation from his wife. Arriving at the airport, he finds his plans for a romantic night thwarted by a series of events, including a terrorist plot. "The film will be controversial - it takes in Iraq, Palestine, Israel and (concerns) 9/11, from the Arab point of view - but the politics is in the background," says Adeeb.
Its line-up includes Egyptian celebrities Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, Nour El Sherif, Yousra and Layla Alawi, alongside western, Syrian, Lebanese, Tunisian and Turkish stars.
Riding high after the success in Egypt and the Gulf of 2007 blockbuster Morgan Ahmed Morgan, Adeeb was able to raise Baby Doll's budget locally, primarily from Good News' coffers: "The budget is not an issue now, but we'd welcome support from co-producers and are in discussions with a partner in Canada," he says.
Adeeb set up Good News in 2001 with his brother Emad. They have ambitious plans for Good News' distribution and exhibition arm, aiming to grow their chain of cinemas from 45 to 200 screens. This year, they began weekly screenings of French and Hindi films, aiming to diversify the market. "We have a five-year plan to bring back the golden age of Egyptian cinema," says Adeeb.
ADEL ADEEB'S CULTURAL LIFE
Favourite book: Broadway Musicals by Martin Gottfried
Favourite films: Roman Polanski's The Pianist and Carlos Saura's Tango
Inspirations: "Modest everyday people, anyone from a taxi driver to a president. For The Baby Doll Night, my drive is my late father. He inspires me every day and I want to honour him by directing his last script."