Terry George, the Oscar-winning writer-director whose work includes Hotel Rwanda and In the Name of the Father, will turn his creative hand to a real-life tale of death and deceit in early 20th century Egypt.
George is teaming with Egyptian writer Marian Naoum to co-write the serial killer series The Alexandria Killings for Yalla Yalla, the Arabic content joint-venture between Dubai-based distributor Front Row Film Entertainment and sales and finance banner Rocket Science.
Set in 1920 Alexandria when Egypt was under British rule, the series — on which George will also serve as showrunner — will chronicle the true story of Egyptian sisters Raya and Sakina. The sisters came from a poor Alexandria neighborhood and rose from poverty to run a glamorous brothel operation, drawing on a powerful and influential circle of Egyptian and British officers, informants and statesmen. At its heights, the Hammams’ operation became a hive of secrets, intelligence sharing and criminal conspiracies among the top echelons of the Alexandria underworld.
The rise and fall of their empire found the sisters relying more and more on petty theft, leading to the murder of 17 women in crimes of opportunity. The sisters were eventually put on trial and became the first women to be sentenced to death, causing a massive social outcry. Public perception of the women varied from cold-blooded criminal masterminds to victims.
The Alexandria Killings — which George will produce alongside Front Row’s Gianluca Chakra and Thorsten Schumacher of Rocket Science, alongside Hisham AlGhanim — will form the first part of a true-crime anthology series set in various periods and locations within the Arab world.
The series will be shot predominantly in Arabic with English to reflect the British rule, exploring the complexities of life on the fringes of a male-dominated society.
“I look forward to collaborating with a truly international team of talented producers and story tellers to investigate the remarkable true story of the Hammam sisters,” said George. “I am particularly delighted to be working with renowned Egyptian writer Mariam Naoum to tackle subject matter that while containing all the captivating elements of a legendary crime also encompasses global themes of sexism, jealousy, greed and lost love. This will be a thrilling and entertaining journey.”
Added Naoum: “I’m very enthusiastic about being a part of this project, and I feel lucky to be working with Terry George and Front Row. At this point of my career, I really believe that merging the experiences of the Middle Eastern and Western filmmakers is crucial for the industry of filmmaking and it will help perfect the adaptation of the story. And I’m sure that I’ll also be learning a lot during this journey.”
The Alexandria Killings will be executive produced by Michela Scolari, who is represented by Larry Hummel, and Nayla Al Khaja, who is represented by Adel Nur.