Pyramide Boards Morocco-Set Romance Thriller ‘Behind the Palm Trees’ From Cannes Prizewinner Ahead of Marrakech’s Atlas Workshops

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Pyramide Films has boarded Meryem Benm’Barek’s “Behind the Palm Trees,” a Morocco-set romance thriller which will be pitched at the Atlas Workshops, the industry sidebar running place alongside the Marrakech Film Festival.

The film marks the sophomore outing of Benm’Barek, an promising helmer who made her feature debut with “Sofia” which won best screenplay at Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section.

Benm’Barek, who grew up between Morocco, France and Belgium, previously directed several short films, including “Jennah.”

Pyramide will handle both international sales and French distribution rights on “Behind the Palm Trees.” The movie is produced by Jean Brehat (“The Insult”) at Les Films du Veyrier and Emma Binet at Furyo in France, Souad Lamriki at Agora Films in Morocco and Olivier Dubois at Novak Prod in Belgium.

“Behind the Palm Trees” follows Mehdi, who leads an exemplary life in Marrakech with his family and Selma, his new girlfriend. For the young couple, things are going smoothly until Mehdi meets Marie, a young French woman caught up in the social life of the expatriate community.

“What I want to do with this film, is to introduce the audience in a romance, that gradually leads us into an intimate thriller, that portray a youth which is disoriented by the violence of their political and social context,” said the director.

Benm’Barek said she spoke to many young men who told her how their romantic affairs were impacted by still resilient colonial attitudes inherited from France’s colonial history with the North African country. “It inevitably played a part through the relationship of domination that continues to exist between Morocco and France,” continued the helmer.

The producers said they will look to position the film within the festival circuit and are considering a strong French and Moroccan cast. “‘Behind the Palm Trees’ is generating a lot of buzz (because) it’s a powerful story that will cross the borders,” the producers continued. Budgeted at $2.5 million, the film is expected to start shooting on location in February.

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