EXCLUSIVE: Paul Baboudjian’s new Dubai-based company Tharwa has boarded Emirati filmmaker Nawaf Al-Janahi’s upcoming English-language psychological thriller Transparent.

The film revolves around a man who loses his grasp of reality after cheating on his wife during a business trip to the port city of Marseilles.

It marks Al-Janahi’s third picture, after The Circle and Sea Shadow, and his first English-language film. Dubai-based writer Nicolas Forzy wrote the original screenplay.

“I love the thriller genre but what also attracted me is the human depth of the story too,” said Al-Janahi.

Baboudjian – best known as the founding, executive director of the Screen Institute Beirut – launched Tharwa in October with the announcement of Saudi filmmaker Ahd’s upcoming film Sandfish.

The tale of a beautiful young orphan who is sold off to an old pearl merchant, the film is based on Maha Gargash’s bestseller The Sand Fish set in the region in the 1950s and 60s, prior to the creation of the UAE.

For Sandfish and Transparent, Baboudjian is working closely with Alessandra Priante who is a creative producer on both projects.

“We want to work with Gulf filmmakers on stories with world appeal and also introduce the concept of proper producing,” said Priante.

“Too often filmmakers in the region have to do everything – write, finance, produce, post-produce, sell – which means they can’t focus on the creative side and often try to shoot projects before they’re properly developed,” she added.

Other new projects on Tharwa’s slate include Bahraini filmmaker Saleh Nass’s debut feature Grace Period, about a young Syrian man who attempts to make a life in Dubai in a bid to avoid the military draft and war back home. His plans soon go awry after his money runs out. 

Nass’ trilogy of award-winning shorts – Game, Central Market and Pick-Up – screened at several festivals. Central Market, about a young barrow boy, is playing in DIFF’s Gulf Voices selection this year.

“Paul and I have been developing this story for a while now, we’re both gripped by simple human drama with grand consequences,” said Nass, runs his own production company in Bahrain, having studied production at the UK’s Bournemouth University. 

“I like to make intimate gritty films and I’m happy to be joining that with Paul’s producing expertise in order to come out with a film that is empathetic, emotionally gripping and at the same time accessible to audiences around the world,” he added.