EXCLUSIVE: UK filmmaker Havana Marking is developing a new documentary about the brutal murder of Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim in Dubai in 2008.
“It’s early days and we’re investigating access to various parties. It’s very complex but if we can pull it off, it will be amazing,” said Marking.
The director is attending DIFF this week with her hit documentary Smash & Grab – The Story of the Pink Panthers about a notorious gang of Balkan-based jewel thieves, which is screening in the Cinema of the World section.
The BBC’s international feature documentary strand BBC Storyville is part funding the project. Marking, who also produces under the Roast Beef Productions banner, is looking for additional funding, preferably from the Middle East.
US-Egyptian producer Jehane Noujaim, whose Oscar shortlisted The Square was associate produced by Roast Beef, will act as executive producer on the project.
Tamim was found with her throat slit in her luxury Dubai apartment in 2008. Prominent Egyptian businessman Hisham Talaat Moustafa was later convicted in a trial in Cairo in 2010 of hiring hitman Muhsin al-Sukkari for $2m to kill the singer. He is currently serving a 15-year sentence.
A member of the ruling National Democratic Party, with a seat in Egypt’s upper house of parliament, Talaat Moustafa was also a close friend of deposed President Hosni Mubarak’s son, Gamal.
“The murder was real tabloid fodder. Everything has been said about Tamim from all angles but it will be nice to tell her story properly and try to see her as a person,” said Marking.
“The wider implications of the story are interesting because it was the first public crack in the Mubarak regime. Egyptians were shocked that he (Talaat Moustafa) went to prison it was an interesting forerunner to the revolution,” said Marking.
“From a UK point of view, it’s a brilliant way to understand what Mubarak’s regime was like before the revolution,” she added.
Dubai producer Rosie Kingham, who secured interviews with the Dubai police force on its successful investigation into the gang’s audacious raid on a the House of Graff jewellers in the city’s Wafi Mall in 2007 for Smash & Grab, will also work on the Tamim documentary.
“We’re hoping to continue relationships begun with Smash & Grab for the Dubai section of the Tamim documentary,” said Marking, adding that much of the shoot will be in Lebanon and Egypt.
Both Talaat Moustafa and al-Sukkari have requested to be interviewed for the documentary.
Marking is also currently in the throes of finalising a deal with UK producer Christian Colson, optioning her Smash & Grab interviews for a fiction feature on the Pink Panther gang to be directed by Danny Boyle.
“We haven’t actually signed but we’re thrashing it all out now… it’s very exciting,” said Marking, who will be an executive producer and consultant on the film.