Oscar-Winning Producer Gareth Unwin Sets Up First U.K./Israel Co-Production

Eran RIklis to direct "Zaytoun" penned by Palestinian scribe Nader Rizq.

LONDON – Oscar-winning producer Gareth Unwin (The King’s Speech) is aiming to be the first producer to make a U.K./Israel picture now the co-production treaty between the two countries is up and running.

Unwin’s Beldam Productions has teamed with Eran Riklis, director of Lemon Tree and The Syrian Bride, and Fred Ritzenberg of Far Films, to make Zaytoun, a script penned by the Palestinian scribe Nader Rizq.

Riklis will direct the story of an unlikely alliance between a 10-year-old Palestinian refugee and an Israeli fighter pilot shot down over Beirut in 1982. Their initial distrust develops into friendship as they make their way across war-torn Lebanon on a journey to a place they both call home.

It is in pre-production, is casting now and aims to shoot next year.

Zaytoun backers hope it will be the first film to take advantage of the newly ratified U.K.-Israel Film co-production treaty.

The agreement sees the Israel Film Fund work with a partner in the U.K. to “mutually support and encourage co-productions.”

The treaty gives projects eligibility to apply for public funding in the U.K. such as U.K. Film Tax Relief and the BFI Film Fund.

French-speaking territories and international sales rights are being handled by Pathé Films, United King is handling Israeli distribution rights, while Prominent Pictures, H.W. Buffalo, BUF in Paris and British Film Company have joined as equity partners.

The project also garnered support from the BFI Film Fund and British Film Company during its development stage.

Unwin said: “Multi-party co-productions are notoriously difficult to structure, with the new treaty we have a great template for how we might all collaborate to bring this amazing story to life. We are incredibly excited to be working with such outstanding Israeli and Palestinian talent.”