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Refugee Film Matar Lines Up Hassan Akkad, Stars of The Swimmers, Dune  

A film examining the plight of asylum seekers in the U.K. is in the works from a team of filmmakers, some of whom have first-hand experiences as refugees seeking asylum themselves.

Entitled Matar, the feature comes from director and activist Hassan Akkad, who won a BAFTA for his BBC documentary Exodus: Our Journey to Europe, which used footage from his own journey as a Syrian refugee to the U.K.

Set to highlight the struggles of asylum seekers in the hostile environment of London’s streets and the hardships faced by thousands of migrants trying to exist in this country, the script is based on the experiences of Ayman Alhussein, a Syrian refugee and cinematographer. Alhussein, who lent his expertise to and had a small role on Netflix’s Toronto-opener The Swimmers, also chronicling the struggles of refugees journeying into Europe, will serve as a camera operator for the project.

In front of the lens, the film will be led by Ahmed Malek, who also starred in The Swimmers, while his co-stars will include BAFTA-nominated Youssef Kerkour (House of Gucci, Home) and Elmi Rashid Elmi (Dune).

Based on Alhussein’s own lived experiences working as a delivery driver and the stories of people he met along the way, Matar is described by filmmakers as a drama about “one man forced, through no fault of his own, to deal with the U.K.’s degrading and unfair immigration system.”

Matar was green-lit by digital media publisher and interactive streaming network WaterBear, marking its first step into scripted drama. The film will be a Deadbeat Studios production, in partnership with WaterBear, Choose Love and the Bike Project. Sundance-winning producer and head of production at Deadbeat, Anthony Toma, will produce the film, with Finn Bruce serving as executive producer.

“It is important for us that this film has an impact in front of the lens and also behind it. These are our lived experiences and stories that need to be told,” said Akkad.

“At Deadbeat, we believe that film is a catalyst for social change,” said Deadbeat co-founder Boris Thomson-Roylance. “Working with WaterBear Network is a perfect partnership for us as we try to cultivate sustainable practice, equality and diversity both on-screen and also on set.”

Added Poppy Mason-Watts, chief growth and impact officer at WaterBear Network: “WaterBear’s core mission is to build an engaged and digital community driving global impact, using storytelling as a vehicle. We’re looking forward to testing a new format in documentary fiction with Deadbeat to tell this important story that shines a light on the struggles of asylum seekers.”

WaterBear Network will lead the impact campaign around the film’s launch. 

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