Jerusalem next site for 'Cities of Love'

5:22 AM PST 09/11/2009 by Rebecca Leffler, AP

Set in different neighborhoods from 10 helmers

PARIS -- Producer Emmanuel Benbihy's "Cities of Love" franchise will continue its world tour with a stop in the Holy Land for upcoming feature "Jerusalem, I Love You," producers confirmed in an interview.

Like its predecessors "Paris, Je t'Aime" and "New York, I Love You," "Jerusalem" will feature several short segments from well-known directors about the Israeli capital strung together by a cohesive narrative.

Scott Berrie's Impulse Creative Productions LLC has snagged the "Jerusalem" license and will co-produce with Israeli partners the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund and the Jerusalem Development Authority, with Benbihy on board as exec producer and discussions in place with Israeli co-producers.

"Jerusalem is just a trove of stories from which top directors can do what they do best, which is to tell stories about humanity," Berrie said in an interview.

The film will feature an A-list cast starring in unique stories set in Jerusalem's different neighborhoods from three Israeli helmers, three American directors and four filmmakers from other countries. "The Israeli directors we choose will represent the population of Jerusalem whether they be Jewish or Palestinian. Diversity is the franchise's main commitment. We're aiming for the highest caliber directors who bring the greatest stories to this project," Berrie said. Berrie's New York-based Impulse Creative was founded in 2008 and already has several projects in development.

"It's important that this film reflect all the different religions and national aspirations and tell real stories of people who live there. The conflict will always be in the background, but won't be the main focus of the film," Berrie said, adding: "We have to be representative of the people living in Jerusalem. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Ethiopians, Copts -- everyone. Film is a beautiful way to understand what is happening over there today."

Benbihy's development company Ever So Close Inc. is turning the "Cities of Love" franchise into a multi-continent business, selling one-picture licenses to various cities across the globe. After Paris' Left Bank and before the West Bank, Benbihy has been busy with pre-production on "Cities of Love" films in Shanghai and Rio. Shooting for the franchise's next installment "Rio, I Love You" is set to begin in Spring 2010, followed by "Shanghai, I Love You" in Fall 2010 and then "Jerusalem" in Spring 2011. "Rio" will hit theaters in early 2011, "Shanghai" in late 2011 and "Jerusalem" in early 2012.

"We picked Paris because it's nicknamed the city of love. New York is the city of romantic comedies. Rio represents sensual love. Shanghai is the city of exotic love. Jerusalem represents spiritual love. Each of these cities has its own love myth," Benbihy explained of the evolution of his multi-city world tour. "New York, I Love You" hits U.S. theaters on Oct. 16 via Vivendi Entertainment.

While "Jerusalem" promises A-list talent and directors, producers will begin to contact talent in 2010. "The particularity of our format is that we wait until all of the financing is in place before we seek out our talent. We do everything backwards," "Cities of Love" founder and producer Emmanuel Benbihy said in an interview. However, based on the star-powered credits closing both "Paris, Je t'Aime" and "New York, I Love You," audiences can expect to see familiar names and faces for the next "Cities of Love" films. Benbihy has closed an exclusive deal with CAA on "Shanghai, I Love You" and is closely working with Peter Loehr to build the financing and secure talent.

"The feedback is excellent. When they get the opportunity to work for a few days to one month with amazing actors and solid teams of professionals in a city they love, even the busiest of directors are interested," Benbihy explained. He added: "We're creating a network, a family of people who have participated in this adventure. We have already collaborated with 35 directors and more than 50 established actors after just two films."

Benbihy is producing "Shanghai" but plans to remain on only as executive producer for the "Rio" and "Jerusalem" editions. "I'll come in only if there are any problems," Benbihy said. However, he added: "I've created a guide of more than 400 pages that explains everything there is to know about organizing production for this specific format."

Benbihy also plans to move this global network to the Internet with a unique distribution platform showcasing the individual short films from each city. While licensing regulations will keep the formats from heading to the web for up to three years, Benbihy will use the site to discover new talents as well.

"Now that we've sold the licenses, the next step is to construct a city-driven community of filmmakers. Our format has unique qualities to find its place in the evolution of cinema," he said.
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