Amr Waked and Salah Al-Hanafy’s Cairo-based Zad Communication is embarking on its first international co-production, teaming with Paris-based Mact Productions on The Exile, a romantic and political drama set against the backdrop of Luxor in the 1980s.

The $2.2m production, to be directed by Atef Hatata, will explore suppression and political corruption under the rule of deposed President Hosni Mubarak through the tale of a female French ceramics expert who goes to Egypt to study the work of a traditional master craftsman based in Qena.

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The film will weave together various subplots including the woman’s affair with a local police officer and religious tensions between Christians and Muslims in Qena. Waked will play the police officer and casting is ongoing in Paris for the female French lead. French DoP Rémy Chevrin is attached to the project.

The tale will unfold against the backdrop of the real-life production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida at the 3,500-year-old Pharaonic Temple in Luxor in 1987.

“The film will show how Mubarak suppressed the religious tensions of the time to ensure that nothing would upset the production of Aida… it’s way of examining his actions during his reign,” said Al-Hanafy.

Recent films from Antoine and Martine Clermont Tonnerre’s Mact Productions include Palestinian filmmaker Rani Massalha’s Giraffada.

The co-production is Zad’s second feature-length film after its critically acclaimed debut picture Winter of Discontent, capturing the events leading up to the Egyptian revolution in 2011, which is screening in the Muhr Arab Feature competition in Dubai.

Other Zad productions in development include Ahmed Maher’s In Which Land You Die about an illegal Egyptian immigrant who living in Italy who is forced to turn to the Mafia to ship his mother’s body back home to Cairo after she dies at Rome Airport during a visit.