Two-time Oscar nominee Hany Abu-Assad is returning to the world stage with The Idol, his latest feature which will premiere as a Special Presentation in Toronto next month. Seville International is handling rights outside the Middle East on the drama that’s based on the true story of the winner of 2013’s Arab Idol singing competition. It’s closed deals in over 20 territories, including France (TF1), Germany (Koch), Japan (New Select), Australia (Umbrella), Latin America (California Filmes), China (Beijing Xiangjiang YiHua Films), Hong Kong (Edko), India (PVR), Taiwan (Spring International), and South Korea (Kaon Contents & Media). MBC is releasing in the Middle East and North Africa through its 03 production arm. EOne will distribute in Spain.

Palestinian filmmaker Abu-Assad was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar for 2013’s Omar and for 2005’s Paradise Now, which won the Golden Globe in the category. The Idol, which was partially filmed in Gaza, tells the true story of Mohammad Assaf. As a young boy in Gaza, he dreams of singing in the Cairo Opera House and for the world to hear his voice. Somehow he manages to make it to the Cairo auditions of Arab Idol, the most popular talent show in the region. As he gets to the latter stages of the competition, he must confront his own fears to take control of his destiny and bring hope and happiness to an entire region.

“This is the first movie I’ve done with a happy ending, and not about politics. It’s a great relief. I’ve never felt so free before,” says Abu-Assad who wrote the script with with Sameh Zoabi.

The Idol is, full disclosure, produced by Deadline’s Ali Jaafar along with Amira Diab. Seville’s Anick Poirier is an executive producer. Cactus World Films’ Maya Sanbar and Sawsan Asfari are co-producers alongside Fortress Film Clinic’s Mohammed Hefzy and 03 Productions’ Fadi Ismail. Also co-producing are Majdal Productions’ Baher Agbariya, September Film’s Pim Hermeling and Key Films’ Hanneke Niens and Hans de Wolf. The Dubai Film Market’s Enjaaz initiative also co-produced. Hamed Mokhtar, Tiziana Sousou, Bashar Al-Masri, Badr Jafar, Gisel Kordestani , Khaled Said, Wafic Said, Sassan Ahsani, Khalil Amiouni, Mufid Shawwa are executive producers.