Chadi Zeneddine is shouldering the expectations of many aspiring film-makers in the Arab world. The 30-year-old Lebanese film-maker has been tapped by Disney to write and direct The Last Of The Storytellers, the first Arabic-language feature backed by a US studio.
"It's about our stories now, we have our own fairy tales, our own heroes," says Zeneddine, who is repped by CAA's Stuart Manashil. "I'm happy Disney is seeing that potential. It's very exciting, but I also feel a lot of responsibility."
That project is in development now with US producer Rachel Gandin. They aim to shoot in 2010 but are tight-lipped on details for now.
Zeneddine has another feature to keep him busy before the Disney shoot: Barbershop Trinity, which recently won $25,000 as one of three winners of the Dubai Film Connection initiative at the Dubai International Film Festival.
The film's Los Angeles-based producer Oualid Mouaness is raising the remaining budget for the $1.4m project.
"We would be open to co-producers if they are very passionate about the project," says Mouaness.
Barbershop Trinity will shoot this spring in Jordan for delivery later in 2009 and release in 2010. Zeneddine says the project is "completely different from my first film (festival hit Falling From Earth), which was more edgy and poetic."
Bassem Nasir's screenplay follows three very different brothers from a Christian family in Ramallah who are forced to take over the family barbershop when their father retires. The film is set against the backdrop of the second Palestinian uprising.
"How to tackle a story happening in Ramallah without politics being an imposing factor in the storyline is what drew me to this material," says Zeneddine, who was born in Gabon and studied film in Beirut. "It's a high-tempo film."
The project has the support of Jordan's Royal Film Commission and private investment; Egypt-based Arab Radio and Television (ART) Network has taken all rights for the Middle East. It will mark the first collaboration between Zeneddine's Beirut-based Artwist Production with Mouaness' Los Angeles-based Tricycle Logic. Mouaness - born in Liberia and also educated in Beirut - has previously produced commercials, music videos and David LaChapelle's documentary Rize.
Mouaness is proud Barbershop Trinity tells a different kind of story from the Middle East: "It's creating something positive, something life affirming."
The cast and crew will be drawn from across the Arab World, including actors such as Waleed Zuaiter, Saleh Bakri, Rafic Ali Ahmad and Yasmine Al Masri.
Zeneddine says: "The ensemble cast brings together the cream of Palestinian and Arabic actors; it's young, up-and-coming talent."