DUBAI/EXCLUSIVE: Acclaimed French actress Isabelle Huppert is in line to make her starring debut in an Arab film, playing a Morocco-born French woman in Abdellah Taïa’s The Treasure.

The $1.6m feature is one of several high-profile projects that are seeking completion funding as part of the Dubai Film Connection co-production forum. Representing the film here is Roman Paul, co-head of Razor Films, the Berlin production company involved in both Paradise Now and Wadjda

Taïa, the Moroccan writer and filmmaker, said Huppert will play the role of the newly destitute Janine who goes in search of hidden treasure in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, accompanied by her building’s superintendent.

“It’s a confrontation between two worlds, the Orient and the West, in a French postcolonial Morocco,” explained Taïa. This will be his second narrative feature after his adaptation of his own largely autobiographical novel Salvation Army that told the story of a gay man negotiating his way through family, desire and the sexual power play behind Arab-European intimacy.

The two French companies that co-produced Salvation Army, Les Films de Pierre and Les Films Pelleas, are producing The Treasure, which is seen as a more commercial proposition. Also involved is Ali’n ’Productions, the company founded by Morocco director Nabil Ayouch.

Huppert is being heavily tipped to finally get her first Oscar nomination after standout performances this year in both Paul Verhoeven’s Elle and Mia Hansen-Love’s Things To Come. She has a long history of working with emerging and international directors across Europe, Asia and the US. Among her several upcoming projects are those that re-unite her with Austria’s Michael Haneke and South Korea’s Hong Sang-soo.