Alana Hadid’s Watermelon Pictures Takes North America For Gaza Director Mohamed Jabaly’s Doc ‘Life Is Beautiful’

EXCLUSIVE:  Watermelon Pictures has acquired North American distribution rights for Palestinian director Mohamed Jabaly’s documentary Life Is Beautiful about his experiences after he became stranded in Norway in 2014 when Gaza’s borders were shut indefinitely.

The distribution agreement, which includes all North American theatrical and ancillary rights, was negotiated in Cannes by Munir Atalla, head of Production and Acquisitionat Watermelon Pictures and Esther van Messel of First Hand Films.

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Jabaly was attending a film festival in Tromsø in 2014, when the borders to Gaza closed. Little did he know that it would be seven years before he could see his family again.

While waiting for the situation to change, Mohamed’s friends back home tell him to seek asylum or get married to stay in Norway. But Mohamed refuses to give up his Palestinian identity and insists on being recognized for his work.

After being denied a work permit after several appeals, despite his film Ambulance gaining international success, he decides to take his case to court backed by a growing group of supporters. As this unfolds, Mohamed lives a parallel life online, staying connected with family in Gaza.

The film won the best director prize at the International Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) last year and is currently travelling the film festival circuit.

“Now more than ever it is imperative that we bring the voices of Gazan filmmakers to North American audiences. With heartfelt humor and courageous optimism, Jabaly gives us a unique window into Gaza that is an antidote to the headlines of this impossible time,” said Watermelon’s Atalla.

“Mohamed Jabaly is the rare talent everybody always looks for: political and poetical, with his storytelling that makes you laugh, cry, fall in love and learn something,” said Esther Van Messel. “We are beyond proud to work with him and the team at Stray Dogs and now to have access also to North American audiences with the wonderful Watermelon Pictures.”

Life Is Beautiful was produced by KriStine Skaret and Sarah Winge-Sørensen for Stray Dog Productions with Mohanad Yaqubi, Esther van Messel, Anne Fabini serving as Executive Producers.

Rooted in Palestinian culture and creativity, Watermelon Pictures, was founded in April by brothers Badie Ali and Hamza Ali, with Hadid leading the team as Creative Director, with the aim of amplifying voices of underrepresented filmmakers.

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