The film, written and directed by Imanishi, will follow Mariam, a young woman who is forced to return home to Western Sahara when she is deported from Europe. Adrift in the very place that was once her home, she desperately searches for the means to assert agency over her own life.
Imanishi participated in Film Independent’s directors lab, followed by the Sundance Institute’s screenwriting and directing labs in 2018. She then met New York-based producer Shrihari Sathe (“Stay Awake,” “Mafak”) who came on board to produce “Doha.” The producing team has since expanded to include Eric Dupont (“Last Film Show”), who was Oscar-nominated for “Ave Maria”; Virginie Lacombe (“Port Authority”) from France; and Barcelona-based Belén Sanchez (“Tobacco Barns”). Yacine Laloui from the Algiers-based Lunja Productions will executive produce alongside Queralt Pons Serra, Peter Howard and Julia Thompson.
The film is supported by the Polisario Front Delegation (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) and the Ministère de la Culture et des Arts (Algeria). Institutional support is provided by Film Independent, Sundance Institute, Gotham Film and Media Institute and MIA Market (Rome). Funding is provided by Instituto de la Cinematografíca y de las Artes Audiosisuales (ICAA), Institut Català de les Empreses Culturals (ICEC), McMillan-Stewart Foundation and Sundance Institute. Production companies include U.S.-based Dialectic, France’s Incognito Films and Virginie Films and Spain’s Un Capricho De Producciones.
“Doha – The Rising Sun” will feature a cast that is a mix of professional and non-professional actors. It will film on location in Algeria in spring 2024. Frida Marzouk will serve as cinematographer, Anna Chwaliszewska as production designer and Marina Pedereño as costume designer.
“The film’s story is very close to my heart and has its roots in Barcelona, Spain. My Sahrawi ex-husband and I met there in 2003 and it is through him, his family, and his friends that I came to learn about Western Sahara and the culture of this unique and remote region of the world,” Imanishi said in a statement. “The film is a compilation of the stories that I gathered over two decades — some inquisitively, some accidentally, some fearfully under censorship — and reflects my own experiences living in Western Sahara as a foreigner and as a woman. The places depicted in the script are therefore real places that I have ties to, and the characters are based on the Sahrawi people who marked my life most deeply.”
The producers added, “The film not only serves as a poignant reflection on the universal quest for belonging in today’s dislocated and disillusioned world, but also provides a platform to spotlight an often-overlooked region: the Western Sahara and its people. Eimi’s unique visual style and narrative voice, infused with her deep knowledge and love for this community, will no doubt resonate deeply with us.”