Bassem Breche’s script for The Maiden’s Pond was among an exclusive selection at Fabrique Cinéma at Cannes 2017. The film is being produced by The Attic Productions, who is currently putting together the team that will bring the story to life. We got the opportunity to speak with Bassem about his passion project and his Cannes experience.
Can you give us a little bit of insight into what The Maiden’s Pond is about?The story is about a lonely woman living in a small Mount Lebanon village in wintertime: She plays a central role in the town and knows everything about everyone. At one point, she has a love affair with a man, and she’s later confronted by the surprising return of her daughter, and we delve into a dark past shared by the two. The tone suddenly shifts from a light family drama to something darker.
What made you want to write and hopefully direct it?I have an affinity for female characters, especially sophisticated ones. I also like older people; I like to be in their brain. I often wonder what it would be like to think you only have a few years left to live. What kind of relationship do they have with people around them and with themselves?
There are almost no men in my film. I put very little emphasis on them. I was once pitching at the Dubai Film Connection 3 years ago, and a lot of people weren’t familiar with who I was. Many were from different cultures so they didn’t know that the name “Bassem” was a guy’s name. They assumed the story was written by a woman and were surprised when they met me.
There isn’t enough female representation in film, and when there is, there’s one kind of wave, and it’s pulling all women to the side and telling them how to look, act…how to exist. Most female actresses have tattooed eyebrows, Botoxed faces, and a whole lot of plastic surgery. I have yet to meet a natural-looking 65 year old female actress for the title role. I may even have to give up on finding Lebanese actresses.
How did you come to collaborate with Jana Wehbe and The Attic Productions?It took me a while to understand how making a feature works. I’ve been in the business as a writer for a long time. I’ve worked on some shorts, but features are an entirely different beast and require a different mentality to produce. There are also many different avenues for funding; it can be private, through grants… you have to be creative.
With Jana, I knew that I wanted someone fresh, new, and enthusiastic. I wanted a partner, not a producer. That’s why I thought of her. She and I had spoken a few times when she was at the Doha Film Institute (DFI) but I didn’t know her personally. I’m very happy with this collaboration; it’s nice to work with young spirits.
Can you describe the response to your script at Cannes?Fabrique Cinéma has been one of the best steps I’ve taken with this script over the last 3 years. I’ve attended a lot of workshops and industry meetings, but it was different with Fabrique. It’s in the Cannes family so to speak and run by the French Institute. When they pick projects, the script needs to speak to them in a certain way. They really believe in these stories and place them in the hands of mentors who have a genuine interest in seeing them come to life.
The highly acclaimed director Brillante Mendoza was assigned to mentor us at Fabrique, which is surreal. I also got the honor to work with Asghar Farhadi at Qumra, held by DFI. It’s very rewarding to be mentored by people you look up to and who helped inspire you.
These initiatives are fantastic, but there’s also the danger of homogenization. Many of these filmmakers have similar styles and mentalities, and newcomers might be so overwhelmed by the bright lights that they’ll take everything to heart. When that happens, you end up with a lack of diversity. But cinema is a choice. You can either accept or reject their advice. I sleep on it and accept what works, and reject what doesn’t. The Maiden’s Pond is very psychological. It’s not conventional or traditional. For me, cinema is what you feel.
But overall, it was an amazing experience. We managed to close a deal with a French co-producer, and we’re in serious talks with sales and distribution companies, so things are looking up. I’m excited for what’s to come.
by Anthony Sargon