exclusive: Canadian-Lebanese co-production Valley of Tears After a difficult photo session, she had to deal with the collapsing Lebanese economy, the epidemic, and the refugee camps.
The first feature film by Iranian-Canadian writer and director Anna Fehr (My life in Limbo) has concluded principal photography in Beirut, Lebanon, after considering the greater part of it in an actual refugee settlement in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
The independent film follows the story of two Syrian sisters (played by non-professional actors) as they desperately try to reunite what’s left of their family but realize that their journey together into exile is ultimately a test of loyalty to each other. Above and below are photos from the first look from the movie.
Produced by Toronto-based Morning Bird Pictures in association with Beirut-based Placeless Films, the project was supported by Game Theory Films’ Black, Indigenous and People of Color distribution fund. Fehr produces with Lara Abu Sivan.
Paul Scherzer from Six Island Productions (San Narcissus) and Aeschylus Paulus from Hawke Pictures (sleeping giant) Executive Producers. Game Theory Films acquired Canadian distribution rights in December 2020; International rights to the title remain open.
Fehr said about the film: “As a filmmaker who has been working in Lebanon for more than a decade, I wanted to tell a story that reflects on the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis from the perspective of two young women who are going through their new lives as refugees in Lebanon.”
The director continued, “Although it no longer controls the news, this crisis continues to unfold against the backdrop of many other crises affecting the lives of millions of people living in Lebanon today. The devaluation of the Lebanese currency has left the majority of Lebanese in poverty. There is a huge shortage of electricity, gas and medicine. On top of that, there is the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the scenario we were grappling with when we ventured into the Bekaa Valley to start production. Stocking us with masks for a month and enough gasoline in our tanks for a one-way trip, we were a cast and crew ready and excited to make cinematic magic. I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone who contributed with their blood, sweat and tears to make this movie a reality. As a global community, we live in extraordinary times, but as filmmakers we find hope in our ability and unwavering desire to tell the stories that matter to us. We’re moving forward thinking that if we work hard enough to get our stories on screen, maybe the rest of the world will just sit back and listen.”
Pic was developed by the 2017 and 2018 Screenwriting and Directing Labs at Film Independent in Los Angeles, where Fahr’s workshop prepared the script with several mentors including Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Robin Swicord (The strange case of Benjamin Buttonand director Daniel Barnescake).
Fehr presented the project in 2015 at TIFF Talent Lab, and was among six scripts shortlisted for the 2020 TIFF-CBC Screenwriter Award.
“We are extremely pleased to have had the opportunity to support Anna’s incredibly secure emergence through the Distribution Initiative, and we hope to continue to find such vital work in future submissions. It is very exciting for us to see the fund in action, and it works on Helping filmmakers bring their stories into production “We can’t wait to share Valley of Exile with Canadian audiences,” Hilary Hart of Game Theory Films commented.
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