Sameh Zoabi

Luxembourg, France, Israel, Belgium, 2018 / 97 min / Arabic and Hebrew OV with French subt. (Arabic & Hebrew OV with FR subt.) / comedy

Awards Night Film, Luxembourgish Premiere

An intelligent commentary on Israeli-Palestinian relations set against the backdrop of a fictional TV soap opera.

Salam, a charming 30-year-old Palestinian living in Jerusalem, works as an intern on a popular Palestinian soap opera, Tel Aviv on Fire, which is produced in Ramallah. Every day Salam must pass through an arduous Israeli checkpoint to reach the television studios. He meets the commander of the checkpoint, Assi, whose wife is a huge fan of the show. In order to impress her, Assi pressures Salam to include some ideas of his own and alter the plot. Salam soon realises that Assi’s ideas could get him a promotion as a screenwriter. Salam’s creative career catches fire, until Assi and the soap’s financial backers disagree on how the soap opera should end. Squeezed between an Israeli army officer and the Arab backers, Salam can only solve his problems with a final master stroke.


Wed 13/03 09:00 Ciné Utopia Arabic & Hebrew OV with FR subt. Scolaire
Wed 13/03 09:00 Ciné Utopia Arabic & Hebrew OV with FR subt. Public
Sat 16/03 19:00 Kinepolis Kirchberg OV with FR subt. Projection privée

“Contemporary shades of Cyrano de Bergerac meet The Six-Day War in Tel Aviv on Fire, an entertaining satire on the state of Israeli-Palestinian relations told via the unlikely device of the beleaguered cast and crew of a cheesy nightly soap opera filmed in Ramallah. Wonderfully cast, Sameh Zoabi’s zippy comedy takes clever basic ingredients and runs with them, affectionately lampooning stereotypical attitudes about Arabs and Jews and how each group supposedly demands to be depicted. […] The storytelling is intricate but clear every step of the way. The joke within a joke – that a crowd-pleasing film about a crowd-pleasing TV series can be an excellent vector for critiquing the stalemate in the Middle East – makes this a useful conversation starter as well as great fun. It certainly seems as if Salam is selling out to get ahead in showbiz, but he may have found his personal story arc instead.” Lisa Nesselson, Screen Daily, 02/09/2018

  • Venice Horizons Award for Best Actor for Kais Nashif, Venice Film Festival, 2018 (Italy)
  • Interfilm Award for Best Film, Venice Film Festival, 2018 (Italy)
  • Israeli Film Competition Award for Best Film, Haifa International Film Festival, 2018 (Israel)
Cast & Credits
Kais Nashef, Lubna Azabal, Yaniv Biton, Nadim Sawalha, Maïsa Abd Elhadi, Salim Daw, Yousef Sweid, Amer Hlehel, Ashraf Farah, Laëtitia Eïdo
Dan Kleinman, Sameh Zoabi
Laurent Brunet
Alain Sironval
Christina Schaffer
André Dziezuk
Samsa Film, Lama Films, TS Productions, Artémis Productions
Samsa Film

Sameh Zoabi was born in 1975 in Iksal, a Palestinian village near Nazareth. In 1998, he graduated from Tel Aviv University in Film Studies and English Literature. In 2000 he won a Fulbright scholarship to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in Film Direction at Columbia University in New York, which he obtained in 2005. He has since received prestigious residencies at the Cannes Festival Cinéfondation and the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. Currently, he lives in Brooklyn and works as an adjunct professor at the New York University Tisch School of the Arts.

  • 2018 – Tel Aviv on Fire
  • 2013 – Under the Same Sun
  • 2012 – Family Albums (documentary)
  • 2010 – Man Without a Cell Phone
  • 2006 – Be Quiet (short)