By Annette Chrysostomou
‘Profile’, a film directed by genre specialist Timur Bekmambetov currently playing at the Berlin Film Festival has partly been filmed and co-produced in Cyprus.
The thriller, in which a reckless British journalist goes undercover as a radicalised Muslim convert, was mainly filmed in the UK but for three days the action was centred in Cyprus.
“We had three-month preproduction meetings through Skype,” production supervisor Monica Nicolaidou of the Cyprus unit said. “During the shooting there was crew of 40 in Cyprus, and the filming took place in Nicosia, Ayios Sozomenos and Shia.”
Supervisors Nicolaidou and George Pantzis took care of the equipment, location, props and catering for the three-day shooting.
The premiere of the film at the prestigious Berlin festival was on February 17.
Director and producer Bekmambetov, known for films such as Russian horror fantasy Night Watch and the lavish 2016 remake of Ben Hur, has in recent years experimented with films which unfold on digital interfaces, and ‘Profile’ is sustaining a narrative using only FaceTime, Skype, Facebook, video downloads and various other web pages and social media platforms.
The film is based on French journalist Anna Erelle’s memoir, In the Skin of the Jihadist. The director makes her into an English journalist who, like women in real life in recent years, falls for recruitment by Isis, something that often starts on social media before the women actually leave Europe.
Struggling to make a living, London freelance Amy Whittaker, played by Valene Kane, convinces Vick (Christine Adams), an editor at a TV station, to let her work on a story about a vulnerable woman who is being lured to join Isis in Syria.
For this, she chooses a new name, Melody Nelson, creates a Facebook profile and pretends to be recently converted to Islam.
According to a hollywoodreporter.com review she is then connected with Bilel, a Kalashnikov-wielding Londoner from a Pakistani family, who burned his British passport upon arrival in Syria and never looked back. Eventually she falls in love with him, leaving the safety of the online relationship and going as far as Amsterdam to meet with him.
This is one of very few international films which have been even partially produced in Cyprus. Local involvement in such films has been thin on the ground due to a lack of incentives, something a new law is expected to change.
The cabinet last September approved a scheme to attract overseas productions. Production companies that opt to film in Cyprus will be able to choose between cash rebate – partial refund of the amount invested on the film – or tax credit, and can also benefit from tax discounts on investments made on equipment and infrastructure, and VAT returns on expenditure in scope.
The cash rebate may reach up to 35 per cent of expenditure made in Cyprus and is capped at €650,000 for each production. The scheme includes the production of films, TV series, documentaries and cartoons.
By 2020, the audio-visual industry is expected to have a global turnover of more than €50bn, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades announced at the time.