EXCLUSIVE: Elizabeth helmer Shekhar Kapur has attached to direct Three Apples Fell From Heaven, a film based on the Micheline Aharonian Marcom novel adapted by Motorcycle Diaries writer José Rivera. The film is set in 1915-1917 as Turks slaughtered Armenians, and revolves around a young female refugee taken in by Turkish neighbors after the death of her parents. Her childhood shattered, she now views the remains of her world through a Muslim veil, as several tragic characters circle around her. While the Armenian genocide is a century old, there is an eerie parallel to the refugee crisis, beyond Kapur’s memory of his own family forced to flee Delhi as refugees during the partition of India. The filmmakers made available a clip of the young women Kapur has auditioned to play the lead role; they are refugees from Aleppo whose descendants fled there to escape the Armenian genocide and who’ve come back to escape the violence that has devastated Syria. The clip is a sad reminder of how little the world has really reformed for refugees. This becomes the first film from a new social justice storytelling production company, Disruptive Narrative, which will launch at Cannes as part of Sunday’s Refugee Voices In Film day, presented by IEFTA, the UNHCR and Marché du Film. The company is founded by leading human rights lawyer, Jen Robinson, of Doughty St Chambers , and Syrian-Armenian actress/writer/producer, Sona Tatoyan.
Three Apples Fell From Heaven, which Kapur will develop as he makes his next film the Bruce Lee biopic Little Dragon, will be produced by VISTAMAR Film’s Frank Henschke, who’s coming off the Oscar-nominated Mustang. As for Disruptive Narrative, the aim is to tell stories that speak to global injustice, the capacity for human resilience and hope. The above clip is relevant to another goal: creating opportunities for talented people in communities impacted by injustice. Robinson and Tatoyan have also founded ‘Hakawati’ (Arabic for ‘storyteller’), a non-profit in partnership with The Sundance Institute for a series of storytelling labs in Berlin with Syrian refugees.
“We have collaborated to conceive a new program to support MENA (Middle East and North African) artists, in this case by working with emerging filmmakers in the growing Syrian/MENA diaspora now residing in Berlin,” said Paul Federbush, the Sundance Institute’s International Feature Film Program Director. “Modeled on the Institute’s renowned Screenwriters and Directors Labs, the program will mentor young artists from the community of over 80,000 from Syria and other conflict zones now residing in the German capital. Through this intensive collaboration with established filmmakers and Sundance staff, young Syrians will be given a platform to tell their stories – whatever they may be, and to therefore be given a voice, an opportunity to be witnessed, to connect with each other and their host country, to heal, to create community.” The Girl On The Train scribe Erin Cressida Wilson will be mentoring the first lab within the year. Disruptive Narrative will be inviting financial support and mentorship for the Hakawati labs, starting at the UNHCR Cannes gathering on Sunday 21 May.