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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Exclusive: Khaled Diab to make a Hollywood version of 'Induced Labour'

Mexicans will replace Egyptians in reboot of director Khaled Diab’s US citizenship comedy, ‘Induced Labour’

Talq Senaey (Induced Labor) Courtesy Dubai International Film Festival
Talq Senaey (Induced Labor) Courtesy Dubai International Film Festival

Khaled Diab could be the next Arab director to make the leap to Hollywood, with a deal on the table to make an American version of his film Induced Labour, which premiered at Dubai International Film Festival (Diff).

The film – screened on Monday – is a comedy about the lengths that Egyptian citizens will go to in order to obtain a United States’ passport, and sees a pregnant couple hijack the US embassy in Cairo to give birth on US territory, granting their children American citizenship in the process.

The American version, which has been optioned by an as-yet-unnamed US production house, will have a slight twist, however. Diab, of Egypt, says: “I’ve had an offer from a big US production company to make the same film but about Mexican immigrants to the US. It’s the same story, and it works there too. This is a universal story about identity and immigration, and the remake will be about two couples in Mexico that hijack the US embassy in Mexico City. These are issues that everyone can relate to. We’re still in discussions at the moment but I’m 100 per cent committed to doing it. I think it will be great because these are issues that everyone can relate to.”

Indeed, the director reveals that, in his experience, it’s not just Egyptians and Mexicans that are keen to live the American Dream. “It’s not just poorer countries, it’s everywhere; everyone wants to live that dream,” he says. “I studied at the American Film Institute. There were 28 of us in my class, students from France, from Canada, all over. Out of those 28, I was the only one that came back to my home country afterwards.”

Comedy fan Diab hopes that his globetrotting film can help to disprove the notion that comedy doesn’t cross cultural boundaries well. “They say comedy doesn’t travel,” he says. “In the whole history of the Oscars I think there are only six comedies that have been nominated for Best Film. I disagree though. Comedy allows you to discuss things that in certain countries you can’t discuss normally.”

Induced Labour is Diab’s first film as director, although he has previously written or co-written six feature films, including 2016’s critically acclaimed Clash, which he co-wrote with the film’s director, his brother Mohamed Diab. His own film is considerably lighter in tone than the disturbing 2016 movie, which opened the Un Certain Regard section of last year’s Cannes Festival, and Diab admits that he is the comedian of the sibling pair. “We write together all the time but we’re very different directors,” he explains. “I like to express myself through comedy. I think that’s the best way to talk about heavy issues, to make them easier to swallow. I don’t think you could discuss some of these issues other than with comedy. Mohamed loves his drama but I’m more into the black comedy, right from the very first film I wrote, Black Honey.”

The earlier film dealt with the shockwaves caused by 2011’s Arab Spring and the protests in Tahrir Square, and Diab says that, while things may still not be perfect in his home country, the effects of the uprisings have benefited him as a filmmaker. “We’re at a totally different stage now, and we hope Egypt will get better and better,” he says. “If we’d made this film before 2011 it would have been very different, a totally different film.”

The film certainly pushes boundaries, with topics previously unthinkable in pre-Arab Spring Egypt. “We discussed lots of really critical, sensitive issues,” the director says.

“We talked about homosexuality, about cross-dressing. This shows you the freedom we have now. This used to be forbidden in Egypt. We have a guy in the film who’s Muslim, but he pretends to be a Christian to try to get his visa.

“These are things we couldn’t have talked about previously, and we really do have these freedoms now. I’m very pleased with the end result.”

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