Finally, some footage from this project we’ve been tracking since August 2011, when it was first announced.
Forest Whitaker teamed up with Oscar-nominated Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb to star in the first film in a trilogy of English-language films that will explore the complex relationship between the west and the Arab world.
“The questions I’m asking in my movies here in America are ‘Where are we?’ and ‘Where are we going?’ and ‘Why do we need to have hope in this relationship?’” the director of Hors la Loi (Outside the Law), his most recent work, and London River before that (both films we’ve covered on S&A) said.
The film is making its World Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival – the Berlinale – this month, and with a third title change.
Initially called Bill’s Law, it’s based on a 1973 French psychological drama titled Deux Hommes Dans La Ville (Two Men In Town) by Jose Giovanni. That story centers on an ex-safe cracker, just out of prison, who finds honest work and a new love, and wants to go on the straight and narrow; but attempts by his ex-gang to lure him back into his former life, as well as the the determination of a vengeful cop who stalks him, nearly push him over the edge.
Director Bouchareb has transferred the action and drama from 1970s France to present-day USA, to a small town in the Southwest, near the Mexican border, touching on American anti-Arab paranoia.
It was later re-titled Enemy Way, and was changed once again to La voie de l‘ennemi, which translates in English as Towards The Enemy.
However, the Berlinale lists its current English title as Two Men in Town, which is the name of the original novel on which the film is based (back to the source after all that song and dance!).
In the film, Whitaker plays a Muslim released from prison into a small town in the Southwest USA, that’s seething with anti-Muslim sentiment.
Joining Whitaker in the reported $20 million film, are actors Harvey Keitel, Brenda Blethyn, Ellen Burstyn and Luis Guzman.
We also now know that Whitaker’s character will be hotly-pursued by a vengeful police officer played by Keitel.
I expected it to premiere at Cannes 2014, with hopes for a 2015 Academy Award nomination, which won’t be the first for the director, Rachid Bouchareb, whose last film, Outside The Law was among the final five films nominated in the foreign-language category of the 2011 Oscars. But the Berlinale gets it first.
The film doesn’t have an American distributor yet.
Jean Brehat (who produced Bouchareb’s Outside the Law) is producing, along with Allen Bain (Just Like a Woman).
The production employed at least seventy New Mexico crew members and three hundred principal and background talent.
Below is about minutes of first look footage from the film, featuring Whitaker seemingly releasing frustrations while riding his motorcycle. Underneath the clip is a photo at the actor in character: