Usually, British directors will wait until they've made a movie or two before trying to crack America. But Londoner Zeina Durra is cut from a different cloth. The New York University Graduate Film Program alumnus has been rewarded for making her debut film, The Imperialists Are Still Alive!, across the pond with a place in the coveted US Dramatic Competition at Sundance, which has been the launch-pad for the Coen brothers, Todd Haynes and Todd Solondz.
The 33-year-old first came to attention with her short film, The Seventh Dog, which won the audience award at the Circuito Off Venice International Short Film Festival in 2006. The short starred Nadine Labaki, who would go on to write, direct and star in Caramel. Durra herself looks like she could be a movie star, but has chosen to remain firmly behind the camera.
The British director is of Middle Eastern and Bosnian descent and these influences can be seen in her debut film, starring Elodie Bouchez (Dream Life of Angels) as a gallery artist living in New York, and rising Mexican star Jose Maria de Tavira as her love interest. The romance blossoms as the French/Arab Manhattan resident moves in socialite circles and television and radio stations are filled with news of an Israeli invasion into Lebanon.
"It's a meditation on how we straddle daily life with all the craziness that's going on in the world today," says Durra. "I wanted to show the humour, pain and the love that arises in a somewhat absurd situation."
It's likely to be a hectic year for the film-maker: as well as taking her film to festivals around the globe, she's currently writing her sophomore film, a road-trip movie set in Jordan. One thing's for sure: Durra is definitely a director who is going places in 2010.