Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, the Belgian directing duo behind “Bad Boys For Life” and Cannes’ Midnight Screening title “Rebel,” are developing “2000,” a film based on Dirk Bracke’s “Straks doet het geen pijn meer.” It will mark the pair’s return to Belgium after lining up “Ms. Marvel” for Disney+ and “Batgirl” for HBO Max.
Bracke’s book, whose title translates into the phrase “soon it will be alright,” is being adapted by El Arbi, Fallah and Bulle Decarpentries (“Carnivores”).
The project, which will be El Arbi and Fallah’s first film in Flemish, reteams the pair with Nabil Ben Yadir at 10.80 Films (“Les Barons”), with whom they made “Black,” their critically acclaimed sophomore outing that won a flurry of awards, including Toronto’s Discovery award.
The book tells the true story of a teenage girl who is being sexually abused by her father and decides to fight back. This abuse survivor has been touch with the filmmakers and Decarpentries throughout the development of the feature, said Ben Yadir. Like the book, the film will take place in 2000 and El Arbi and Fallah said they had the ambition to make a “historical film about this period.”
El Arbi said he read the book when he was 14 and was “blown away by it,” and pledged to make a feature based on it. “It’s such a difficult topic and I was struck by the way it talked about teenagers, and about this young women who was abused by her father, I had never heard of something like that, at the time I was only watching action and gangster movies,” said El Arbi.
“This book opened my eyes, I realized that it could happen to someone I know, someone in my class. The talent of the author is to have written this book for teenage readers,” added the helmer.
He said the goal was also for the film to be accessible to young adults. “‘2000’ is going to follow the journey of this woman and how she will survive and set herself free, physically and psychologically, and ultimately fight back,” said Ben Yadir.
Since it’s a challenging topic to bring to the screen, Ben Yadir said “the movie will weave some animation to depict certain scenes to avoid showing the violence in a way that is too explicit.” He said the animation can allow the filmmakers to “go even further in the illustration of this psychological turmoil.”
El Arbi said “there will be some abstract, surreal animated images showing that’s going on inside the head of the character.” He added that the idea was to bring a fantasy, dream-life and poetic dimension to the story.
Fallah and El Arbi are at Cannes to present “Rebel,” and are also taking meetings with Ben Yadir to find partners on “2000.”
After the success “Black,” the pair was approached to helm “Bad Boys for Life” and have been going back and forth between Hollywood and Belgium.
Citing Oliver Stone and Spike Lee as sources of inspiration, El Arbi said he and Fallah like to work in Belgium on smaller films and take risks.
“We’ve been to the ‘Hollywood’ school where we’ve learned all the technical skills and also how to tell a story in a way that’s accessible, and we also like to take advantage of being more free, more daring creatively speaking and tackle difficult topics that can raise awareness,” said El Arbi.
Ben Yadir is also at Cannes to raise the financing for “Les Baronnes,” the sequel to his hit crime comedy “Les Barons,” which sold to major territories. The producer said he will be directing the movie with his mother.
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