Mohammed Assaf made headlines in 2013 as the first Palestinian to win the title of Arab Idol, during the second season of the series. With Palestine's ongoing political struggles for international recognition and legitimacy, the win was particularly significant to the millions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, within the territories and in the wider diaspora.
Now, Assaf's story is being taken to the big screen by Palestinian Hany Abu Assad, the Academy Award-nominated director of "Paradise Now" (2005) and "Omar" (2013). The film also stars renowned Lebanese director and actress Nadine Labaki of "Where Do We Go Now?" (2011) and "Caramel" (2008).
Although the film is set in Beirut, Cairo and Gaza, it was filmed primarily in Jordan. Abu Assad explained that this decision was due to political, economic and artistic reasons according to Al Bawaba . Abu Assad is an Israeli-born Palestinian.
For her part, Labaki expressed positive sentiments to Al Bawaba about her experience working on the project in Jordan, saying that this was due to the "passionate and highly professional crew.”
The film wrapped up filming in Jordan last week and MBC released a 30 second teaser trailer of the film on ET Bil Arabi on Sunday. The release date and official title of the film however, have yet to be set according to The National .
Assaf's story received wide attention in 2013 as he had to sneak out of Gaza in order to audition for the popular pan-Arab reality TV series. He began his musical ambitions by performing in Gaza, with some opposition from his parents. However, when Assaf made it onto Arab Idol, he received an outpouring of support from the Palestinian community and several prominent Palestinian politicians publicly supported him.
With Abu Assad, Labaki and the powerful story of Assaf all coming together for this project, do we sense another Academy Award nomination in the works? For now we'll hold our breath and wait for the release.