A Filmmaker in Palestine: A Q&A with Hany Abu-Assad

Tony Phillips in Signature:

ScreenHunter_1942 May. 11 17.11I've been tracking Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad since his harrowing film about childhood friends turned suicide bombers, “Paradise Now,” played the 2005 New York Film Festival, then went on to garner an Academy Award nomination for best foreign film and win a Golden Globe for the same. In 2012, his English language debut, “The Courier,” starring Mickey Rourke went direct to video, but he gained his footing again in 2013 scoring his second Oscar nomination with “Omar.”

In 2014, he was invited to join The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and follows up with his most personal film to date, “The Idol.” The film tracks the true story of Mohammed Assaf following a bold escape from Gaza as he scrabbles to the top of the Arab Idol television competition in Cairo as Egypt basks in the Arab Spring. Another English language foray for Abu-Assad awaits: his “Charlie Hunnam out, Idris Elba in” studio adaptation of Charles Martin’s 2010 bestseller, The Mountain Between Us.

When we meet in the lobby of a boutique hotel in Tribeca, his broad, open face welcomes me and I listen to his outspoken views on Israel, thinking, How do I keep this feature balanced? Tell the reader to pick up a fashion magazine with Natalie Portman on the cover as a chaser? But in the end, I decide it’s best to keep the fifty-four-year-old writer, director, and former airplane engineer in his own words, as sparkling as the Pellegrino sitting in front of him.

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