EXCLUSIVE: Palestinian American filmmaker Cherien Dabis is set to adapt Suad Amiry’s Sharon And My Mother-in-Law, a humorous account of life in Ramallah during the Second Intifada. It will be her first feature set in the West Bank and in Arabic.

“It’s a book based on emails she sent friends about the absurdities of life under occupation,” said Palestinian American Dabis, who is competing in DIFF’s Muhr Arab Competition with May In The Summer.

The book spans seven years but Dabis will focus on ten days when Ramallah was under a strict curfew during the 2002 Israeli re-occupation of the city.

“During this time the main character is stuck in her house with her mother-in-law. It’s a very funny look at family dysfunction under the extreme conditions of the occupation. She’s a very, very funny writer,” said Dabis.

“It’s a great story and one of the things I like to do in my work is walk that line between drama and comedy where it’s a drama but there is a lot of humour because I think humour is so important to the survival of the Palestinian people.”

The filmmaker is developing the dramatic comedy through her Displaced Pictures production company alongside producing partner Nadia Saah of FairPlay Media. She hopes to complete the project within two years.

Her breakthrough debut feature Amreeka, dealt with a Palestinian woman coming to terms with life in Chicago. May In The Summer, which premiered in Sundance earlier this year, follows a successful New York writer who heads to Jordan to for a fairy-tale wedding to her Arab-American boyfriend.  

Dabis is also developing second project about a West Bank man in his twenties who suddenly becomes the sole breadwinner for his sick mother and seven siblings when his father is killed. Unable to make ends meet with his earnings from working at a local fruit and veg market, he is forced to illegally enter Israel in search of work.

“I think there will always be humour present in my films but that is more of a straight drama,” said Dabis.