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PARIS – Lawrence Kasdan, Jerry Zucker and Brad Silberling are among the all-star directing team set for filmmaking pilgrimages to the Holy Land for Jerusalem, I Love You. Joseph Cedar, Ari Folman and Hiam Abbas have also signed on to direct their respective visions of love in the holy city.
Producers Scott Berrie, Marianne Maddalena, Metro Communications’ Dudi Silber and associate producer Tara Billik have joined forces to produce the Israeli-Belgian-Canadian co-production that will feature 10 stories about love and romance in present-day Jerusalem. Each segment will last for five to seven minutes and will be tied together through transitional sequences.
The film is part of Emmanuel Benbihy’s Cities of Love film franchise that began with Paris Je t’aime, crossed the Atlantic for New York, I Love You and will next head to Shanghai, Rio and Berlin. Benbihy also told The Hollywood Reporter that he is currently in negotiations with New Orleans to set a Cities of Love film in the Louisiana city. Each film features separate love stories set in a single city, each shot by a different director.
“The concept is interesting because it juxtaposes the idea of love in different cities,” Berrie said, adding that Cities of Love differs from other franchises in that there’s no continuity of character in the films and each city takes on a starring role in its film.
“Paris was all about love. New York was more about relationships than love. In Jerusalem, there’s a lot of love of course, but also spirituality that brings people together because, outside of the political issues, I think that religions have a lot in common,” Benbihy explained.
Berrie added: “Jerusalem will be more philosophical and spiritual. After all, millions around the world believe that God exists in Jerusalem.”
Producers have received scripts and short stories from Amos Oz, Nicole Krauss, Etgar Keret, Zeruya Shalev, Michael Govrin, Meir Shalev, Hagai Levy and Suha Arraf. Jon Turtletaub, Eytan Fox, Paul Haggis and Akiva Goldsman are also in discussions to shoot segments for the collaborative storytelling project.
“We have a lot of demand from directors wanting to be involved,” Maddalena said, but added that producers remain picky about their talent. “We need to ask: ‘How does each story fit with the general diversity of stories we’re looking for?’”
“It’s all about great stories. We want to be as representative of Jerusalem as we can possibly be,’ Berrie explained, but added: “12 stories aren’t nearly enough to show every nuance of every religion, nationality and denomination in Jerusalem.”
ICM will rep the film in North America and West End Films is handling international sales. Producers are planning a fall 2012 shoot for a 2013 release.
Benbihy is currently in China where he is preparing Shanghai, I Love You while Joshua Skurla and his co-producers work simultaneously on the Rio version that is being planned for release ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games in the city.
After a world tour, the Cities of Love franchise will also head to cyberspace where Benbihy is hard at work developing the launch of the franchise on the web. With so much interest from hundreds of cities across the globe and hundreds of filmmakers looking to share their stories, Benbihy “couldn’t respond to all of the demand” so opted to launch the franchise online parallel to the theatrical releases.
“I didn’t want to limit myself to working only with stars and leave young cinema behind,” Benbihy explained, adding: “The objective is to work with a big number of young filmmakers across the world and give them the opportunity to work for us under professional conditions. It’s a powerful international tool.”
Benbihy has spent the past 10 years structuring the franchise and, while he remains on as executive producer overseeing every city project, he’s signed licensing agreements with each producer to give them freedom to make their films.
“After Paris, je t’aime, I realized I’d stumbled upon a format that allows for innovations and adaptation across the world. Our format is more powerful than conventional films in many ways ,” Benbihy said of the unique franchise that is challenging traditional approaches to filmmaking. “We do everything differently even though we are slowed down by a fairly traditional film industry that is more and more imprisoned in its mainstream approach, and unable to embrace the new media world. True creativity can only come from the margins,” he said.
Will the jet-setting love franchise ever settle down? “Frankly, I don’t think I’ll ever stop,” Benbihy said, adding: “It’s a format that hasn’t had it’s last word yet.”
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