Murad Abu Eisheh, Roger Frappier

Source: Screen International

Murad Abu Eisheh, Roger Frappier

Roger Frappier, one of the Bafta-winning producers of Jane Campion’s The Power Of The Dog, is in Cannes talking to potential partners about a feature adaptation of Canadian novel The Orange Grove.

Rising Arab filmmaker Murad Abu Eisheh is set to write and direct, and has joined Frappier in Cannes this week to discuss the project with financiers, actors, distributors and sales agents ahead of a planned shoot in 2025.

The story is based on the 2013 novel by Larry Tremblay and centres on a Middle Eastern theatre understudy whose chance to go on stage triggers memories of his war-torn childhood with his twin brother at the family’s orange grove.

Abu Eisheh said most of the story takes place when the character is aged nine. “It tells how a normal family slowly becomes dismantled by the circumstances of the world around them.”

Marking his first fiction feature, Abu Eisheh is the Jordanian director of Tala’vision, which won best short at the first Red Sea International Film Festival in 2021 and went on to scoop a student Academy Award, making him the first Arab to win a student Oscar.

“The main character is from the Middle East, but I don’t want to say exactly where in the film,” said the Berlin-based filmmaker, who grew up in Amman but whose family is from Palestine. “His story could have taken place in any country plagued with war in our region, and we have a few of those, unfortunately.”

Canada’s Frappier, whose Two Lovers And A Bear premiered in 2016 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, is producing through his Montreal-based Max Films alongside Sylvie Lacoste and Veronika Molnar. He aims to set the production up as a co-production between Canada, Germany and territories in the Middle East.

Frappier began seeking a director for the project two years ago, after optioning the book, and knew he wanted a filmmaker from the Arab world to tell this fundamentally Arab story.

“We live in a world of cultural appropriation so when I read the book, I knew I need an Arab filmmaker,” he recalled.

After seeing Tala’vision, he contacted Abu Eisheh and began their collaboration. “It’s a true adaptation in that Murad has created new characters for the film that explore the story more,” he said. “We are also developing films beyond The Orange Grove. Murad has a vision of cinema at another level.”