JOSEF FARES ON by sofiaie



Zozo grows up in Beirut. In spite of the civil war he leads a normal
life with family, friends and school. But one day tragedy strikes
and Zozo is torn away from his family and is forced to make his own
way through life. His only hope is to get himself to Sweden, for him
an unknown country.

Josef Fares follows the successful comedies Jalla! Jalla! and Kops
with Zozo, a significantly more dramatic and emotionally charged
story, directed with Fares’ trademark sense of humor and visual


”Probably not until all this is over will I realize how important
this film is to me. Zozo is the film that I’ve been dreaming of
doing for such a long time now, that it almost feels like my first.
I can’t really answer why I made it; it’s just always been in my
head. It’s much more personal than anything I’ve done in the past,
because it’s inspired by my own life.”

”I’ve always thought I’d have to wait a long time to make Zozo. When
I was more experienced. So I made Cool Guys, Jalla! Jalla! and Kops
and figured it would be a few more years. And then Anna (Anthony,
producer) said to me; ’you know, you could miss the boat on this
one… let’s just do it now’.”

”Because of the stakes involved for me personally, the process has
been nerve-racking, from the writing to the casting, all the way
through the editing. I had to look deep down and sometimes it was
pretty rough. I don’t know what it was exactly, but probably because
it had to do with alienation. I remember what it was like coming to
Sweden and trying to find my way, like at school for instance.”

”I’ve never written a script entirely by myself before. This was a
first. And because I had such a passion for the story it was
incredibly fun and exciting. With Zozo, I put no limitations on
myself whatsoever. I’ve tried to be very receptive. What I’ve liked,
I’ve gone with. Like the chicken being able to talk, or Zozo on the
balcony speaking with some sort of God. I could easily have allowed
myself to think, ’wow, this is nuts’, but instead I just let loose
and wrote whatever came to mind. It was very satisfying.”

”I didn’t have to make that much up. I just recalled situations and
converted them to scenes. Like the chicken. I actually had a chicken
when I was about 8-9 years old that I talked to. And it was
traumatic. We went to my uncle’s one day and I left the chicken with
some roosters. Like I thought they’d be nice to kids, that kind of
thing. But when I got back they’d pecked him to death and there was
only a little piece of skin left. Worst thing I’d ever gone
”And yet Zozo is not about me. Sure, it’s inspired by parts of my
life, but it’s not an autobiography. There was stuff that we did too
though, like learn Swedish with a tape recorder. My uncle would send
us tapes. And I’ve stood in front of a classroom and said, ’My name
is Josef and I come from Lebanon’. Zozo’s emotional state is similar
to what mine was. He’s a dreamer, just like me.”

”I’ve actually exaggerated the war scenes. Certainly there were
bombs when I was kid. But to be honest, I experienced things
differently. It was actually kind of fun to duck into the bomb
shelters when the bombs came down, because it was exciting and it
felt like something was happening. I was a kid, and I guess I just
repressed the fear.”

”It was different for my dad and mom though. The stories they tell
just kill you. Like the time when I was about a year old, when the
bombs were coming down so hard we were stuck in the shelter for a
week. The ground was covered with this black muck and I didn’t have
any diapers, and I got this rash over my whole body. So my mom had
to dash barefoot out into the bomb-ridden streets, and get to a
hospital and she just screamed. ’Help my child’. Then one realizes
the hell we went through, but at the time I didn’t really get the
gravity of it all. I was dreaming of going to Sweden and thought
everything would work out. But it was not easy getting in. We tried
five different times over eight years, but were always sent back. My
dad worked like a dog to come up with the money and finally we got
in when I was ten.”

”I hadn’t been to Lebanon for 17 years when we started shooting
Zozo. Going back to my old neighborhood and to the apartment I grew
up in was really special. The apartment was actually empty so I got
the keys from a neighbor and just walked in. You have an idea that
it’s going to be this huge place, but it hit me how small it

”And then there were the memories of everything I’d done in there. I
imagined that everything would be the same as back then. But it
wasn’t just that it was physically smaller, it was the feeling of
it. It’s like if someone asked you what it feels like to be you here
and now, and you’d think about your friends and going to the movies
and stuff. And then you’re transported 20 years into the future.
When you revisit it, you think it’s going to be the same, but it’s

”But just being able to go there, and meet people, eat the food and
having everyone around me speak the same language was amazing.”

”We did try to find Zozo   in Sweden, but I knew from the start that
we were going to have to   go to Lebanon. Kids that come here learn
Swedish so quickly so it   would’ve been too difficult to find a kid
that has the same accent   and who’s also fluent in Arabic.”
”I only realized until way into it that Imad was going get the part
of Zozo, even though he was one of the first boys that Jesper
(Kurlandsky, casting director) auditioned. Imad and I went through
it for an entire day, and I studied all his abilities, tested and
tested and it turned out he was really good.”

”I was thinking about talking to some people that had had a lot of
experience working with kids, but in retrospect I have to say
they’re actually easier to work with than adults. Imad understood
the character immediately and he was extremely professional. And of
course, he’s a lot cuter than I ever was… ha ha. I’d say in general,
I made Zozo smarter, more soave and cooler… everything I wished I’d
JOSEF FARES – Writer/Director

Josef Fares was born in 1977 in Lebanon. Ten years later he and his
family came to Sweden and the town of Örebro. Josef started making
films when he was 15 and sent them around to amateur film festivals.
About 50 shorts and many awards later Josef entered film school in

His association with Memfis Film began with the pilot Cool Guys and
was followed by the box office smash Jalla! Jalla!. After that Josef
directed Kops which proved equally as popular with audiences with
over 775,000 admissions in Sweden. Both films were distributed in
over 20 countries.

FILMOGRAPHY (selected)

2005     Zozo

2003     Kops

2002     Come on! (short film)

2000     Jalla! Jalla!

2000     The Dick (short film)

1999     Cool Guys (pilot)

1998     Kajsa & Muhammed (short film)

1998             The Filmmakers (short film)

1998     Bad Luck (short film)

1997     The Robbery (short film)

1997     Galileo Ghosthunter (short film)

1996     Gangstas’n’cash (short film)

1995     Lunatics (short film)

Imad Creidi - Zozo
Born 1991. Although Imad Creidi has appeared in many commercials in
Lebanon, Zozo is his first feature film.
”I love watching the behind-the-scenes programmes and then there I
was, acting in a real movie.” It was so much fun, especially the
scenes I did with the grandfather. He really made me laugh. I
couldn’t believe Josef Fares was a director the first time I met
him. He was so young and he joked around all the time. But there was
one downside: he snuffs. That’s really disgusting.”

Learning a new language wasn’t the greatest challenge Imad Creidi
faced while making Zozo. He mastered that in a few weeks. The most
difficult part was having to cry on cue.
”I really had to concentrate to cry. I filled my thoughts with a
song, a very sad song, and that’s when the tears would flow.”
Imad Creidi hadn’t reflected on war that much before Zozo.
”I never really understood what my parents went through during the
war, but when we started filming Zozo I asked my father a lot of
questions and he would tell how he and my mother would leave for
work every day, not knowing if they would be coming back home. I
feel like I understand more now.”
Imad Creidi has already decided what he’s doing in the future. He’s
very confident that he’s going to become a director. A young
director that makes comedies.
”I’ve actually already made a short film, which I shot and edited
myself. It’s about my boy scout camp.”

Carmen Lebbos – Zozo’s Mother
Born 1963. Carmen Lebbos is a famous actress in Lebanon and has been
working in film, television and the theater since 1981. She’s been
in several television series including Esma lah and will appear in
the leading role this fall in The teacher’s daughter. She also
appeared in Ziad Doueiri’s West Beirut.
”I’ve wanted to be in films ever since I was a child. I love being
able to inhabit so many different people’s lives. I can live in the
present, past and future. I can work in a bar or play a queen. I’d
probably go crazy if I switched around like that in real life.”
She liked working on Zozo in Sweden:
”When you work in France for example, you’re always labeled as an
Arab. Even if the crew is nice to you, you still feel they think of
the Lebanese as bad copies of the French. Like we come from some
broken down Xerox machine. It wasn’t like that in Sweden. I was very
well taken care of.”

Charbel Iskandar – Zozo’s Father
Born 1966. If Charbel Iskandar’s father had his way, Charbel
would’ve graduated law school. But in 1990 he decided to take a
chance on acting instead. First the stage and then in recent years,
television series and films such as Chakatni Roudayna and S:t Paul.
He also writes for and appears weekly in the television satire Irbit
Tinhal (We’ll soon find a solution).
Working on Zozo took him back 20 years in time.
”When I walked onto the soundstage it felt like 1987 all over again,
and I said, gosh I don’t feel too good, maybe we should just get out
of here. We used real explosion sound effects and for a moment I
thought the bombs were really falling, and that we’d have to dive
down into the shelters again.”
”We haven’t forgotten the war, it’ll always be a part of us. I jump
every time a door slams. That’s just the way it is.”

Jad Stephan – Zozo’s Brother
Born 1989. Jad Stephan had no idea what to expect when he first met
Josef Fares. ”I was certain he’d be like one of those old-time
directors, with the cigar and tuxedo, yelling at everybody. But then
he came in, dressed like a normal guy. And he never yelled. He
became more like a friend that you joked around with.”
Jad Stephan had only done a few commercials in Lebanon before Zozo,
but now he can see himself making a career out of acting.
”But it’s a risky business – you get rich or not get hired at all.”
He mentions Freddie Prinze Jr. as an actor he looks up to.
”I don’t like Richard Gere, Robert de Niro or Pierce Brosnan.
They’re so old.”

Antoinette Turk - Rita
Born 1993. When Antoinette Turk went to her drama class one day in
April 2004, she had no idea that she’d be given a role in a Swedish
film two months later.
”This guy came to our school and asked if some of us would audition.
I never thought I’d get the part. I was so surprised. And happy of
And Antoinette didn’t know much about the country she’d be visiting.
”I’m not too good at geography, so I thought Sweden was a country
full of only mountains and almost no people.

Elias Gergi – Zozo’s Grandfather
Born 1947. Elias Gergi thought his son was joking when he called him
and said they were looking for the grandfather for this movie and
wouldn’t Elias like to try out for it.
”But then I thought why not. I’m a born actor. I can be funny, I can
be a comedian, but I can also be dramatic.”
Not only that, Elias Gergi has been in films before, albeit on the
”I’m a flutist really, and so my group and I appeared in a film
called Lamset Hanans in the 70s. It was really good”.
In general, Elias Gergi prefers films from the older era because
they had more heart and soul.
”But I like Zozo. I loved almost all the scenes. Especially the ones
I’m in.”

Yasmine Awad – Zozo’s grandmother
Born 1937. Yasmine Awad has had several professions since she left
Lebanon for Sweden in 1989. Amongst them working in a kitchen, but
she had never acted before. A friend who works at city hall in
Falkenberg told her about the part of the grandmother in Zozo.
”They’d called over there and asked if anyone could play the part of
a Lebanese grandmother, and I thought I could do it. I was very
happy when Josef called and said I had the part. So were my children
and grandchildren.”
Viktor Axelsson - Leo
Born 1992. Viktor Axelsson has nothing but good things to say about
the Zozo shoot: Imad Creidi became a great friend, Josef Fares was
extremely nice, the crew were great and all the scenes were very
easy to do.
”But there was one scene that was very boring and hard to do. We
were shooting in a classroom and it was 90 degrees and full of
extras and cameras and I had to wear jeans and thick sweater. It was
When he’s not in school, Viktor Axelsson runs track and field, works
as a model, cooks, watches the Star Wars films (”I’ve seen them at
least 200 times”), but mostly he plays video games. ”There are those
that say playing video games is bad for you, but that’s crazy. I’ve
learned everything I know from video games. Like Greek mythology. It
started with the games, but now I know almost everything about
heroes and gods. I think I’ll end up teaching it. Or I’ll become a
cook. I like making up new dishes.”

Aril Wretblad
Born 1972. It didn’t work out too well the first time Aril Wretblad
and Josef Fares worked together. ”We were doing a student film at
film school and both Josef and I were very ambitious about it, but
we weren’t on the same page. So we fell out. And were sore at each
other for a whole year until we finally decided to stop moaning and
do something we both liked instead.”
The first successful project became the action sequences Ordinary
Americans which was shown during Elverket’s production of the play
Popcorn. This was followed by Jalla! Jalla!, Come On!, Kops and now
”We’ve even developed our own form of communication, so we don’t
talk that much these days. One sound and it’s crystal clear to both
of us.”
When Aril Wretblad isn’t shooting with Josef, he’s doing everything
from shorts, music videos to commercials. During the summer of 2005,
he’s shooting the feature film Seven Millionaires.

Michal Leszczylowski
Born 1950. Michal Leszczylowski is one of Scandinavia’s most revered
editors and has worked with Ingmar Bergman, Lukas Moodysson, Maria
Blom and Josef Fares. ”Andrej Tarkovskij is probably the director
that has meant the most to me, partly because I worked with him in
the beginning of my career and also because he’s the most
accomplished poet of cinema”. The most frequently asked question
Michal receives is who’s the boss in the editing room; the editor or
the director?
”With a good film, none of them, it’s the material that’s the boss.”
Michal is also Professor of Film Editing at the State Film School in

Kristin Grundström
Born 1972. Although Kristin Grundström only graduated from the
editor program at film school last year, she’s already formed quite
the resume, beginning as an assistant editor (Together, Days like
this, Kops) and then later as an editor (Mamma Pappa Barn, Kung
Konrad, To kill a child) She is currently working on a television
”Editing is very creative. You get to work with acting, music, and
you’re in there shaping the story. Starting out with tens of hours
of material and ending up with what is eventually the final film”.
Downsides? ”Probably the long hours on the same chair in a dark room
with stale air.”

Anna Asp
Born 1946. Anna Asp has been an outstanding production designer
since the 1970s. She’s received two Guldbagge Awards for ”creative
achievements in Swedish film” for The best intentions 1993 and Evil
in 2004. She received an Academy Award for Fanny and Alexander in
1983. In her own opinion she had the most satisfying experience
working with Andrej Tarkovskij on the film The Sacrifice.
”I usually think in colors while I work. I choose a few colors that
permeate the entire film. For example in Evil, I used brown, a
symbolic color for the 50s, Nazism… kicking people while they’re
down. Whilst Fanny and Alexander is red, which symbolizes love, the
theater and power. Use of color is an inexpensive way to create a
mood or construct a world.”
”Zozo was a bit different. Zozo lives on the same street Josef grew
up on. It was about getting as close to reality as possible.”

Jesper Kurlandsky
Born 1977. Jesper Kurlandsky has worked at Memfis Film since 1999.
He started out as a PA on Together and Jalla! Jalla! and was later
casting director on Lukas Moodysson’s Lilya 4-ever and was also a
part of the A hole in my heart crew. Finding the cast for Zozo
entailed many trips to Lebanon and going through hordes of audition
”You might find one actor out of a hundred people, so we had to see
as many kids as possible. We scoured the schools, advertised in the
newspapers, and when we started hitting the wire, we even stopped
people in the streets.”
It was actually advantageous auditioning actors in a foreign
language according to Jesper Kurlandsky.
”It’s easy to get hung up on a certain choice of words or some other
tick as the actors improvise when it’s in your own language. Also,
it’s really nice to have an interpreter – you have extra time to

Denise Östholm
Born 1978. Vintage stores, classifieds for 80s children’s clothing,
bazaars in Tripoli and Beirut… Denise Östholm who’s worked on Jalla!
Jalla!, Lilya 4-ever, Kops and Love & Happiness looked everywhere
for the costumes for Zozo.
”I started looking at tons of photographs from Beirut, I surfed the
net and looked at books. I brought out old yearbooks for the scenes
in Sweden and looked at the docksides all the boys seemed to have,
the bright yellow polo shirts and the monogrammed school shirts. I’d
forgotten about all that. And it wasn’t easy to find. People don’t
exactly hang on to casual kid’s clothes.”
It’s no coincidence that Denise Östholm is a costume designer.
”I’ve always been observant of people and their clothing. I
fantasize about people, and wonder where they live, how they live,
who they are.”

Adam Nordén
Born 1971. Adam Nordén has always wanted to do movie scores. He’s
not only composed music for commercials and television themes, but
has several features to his credit including, Witch in our family,
Bombay Dreams and Dolph Lundgren’s action film The Defender.
”It’s so incredibly cool that one can get people to feel certain
emotions that they otherwise wouldn’t have felt. You can manipulate
the audience into getting excited over some boring cop scene. That’s
Composing for Zozo, he’s combined western and middle-eastern music,
which was performed by the London Philharmonia Orchestra.
”That was cool, especially the Armenian flutists.”

Anna Anthony
Born 1971. Ten years ago Anna Anthony began working at Memfis Film,
making coffee and answering phones. She quickly acquired more
responsibilities such as a producer’s assistant on Lars von Trier’s
Breaking the Waves and later as associate producer on the films of
Lukas Moodysson. She met Josef Fares in 1999. ”It was actually Lukas
who told me about him. So I rang him up and he came over and showed
me his films, which I liked very much. They were action-packed,
technically innovative and very, very funny.” Anna Anthony and
Memfis Film then decided to support his low-budget film, Cool Guys,
with equipment and some financing. Anna has since produced Mikael
Håfström’s Days like this and Josef Fares’ Jalla! Jalla!, Kops and
now Zozo. ”Josef and I have made four films together and I think
we’ve grown in tandem, him as a director and myself as a producer
and Zozo was definitely a challenge for us both.”

Anna on Zozo
”We were in my office and I said, ’we have to do this now, you have
to do this story while it’s still close to your heart, because if
you do it when you’re older, it could end up too nostalgic and told
with too much reverence’. ’Then we’ll need a big budget. It’s got to
be fierce’, said Josef.
Special Effects, a long shoot, cinemascope, bountiful production
design and the fact that part of the film had to be made in Beirut
necessitated a large amount of resources.
”But we must have had a guardian angel with us as there were no
catastrophes to speak of, shooting in Beirut went beyond all our
expectations and the only time it rained was on a day off. It’s been
the experience of a lifetime. I’m very proud of Josef and Zozo.”
Production information

ZOZO is produced by Memfis Film Rights V in co-production with
Zentropa Entertainments5, Zozo Ltd/SigmaIII Films Ltd and also in
co-production with Film i Väst, Sveriges Television (SVT) and Nordic
Film- & TV Fund/Svend Abrahamsen, with support from the Swedish Film
Institute/Per Nielsen and the Danish Film Institute/Lena Hansson-
Varhegyi, and in collaboration with Canal+ Television and Invicta
Capital Ltd

Screenwriter & Director Josef Fares
Producer                 Anna Anthony
Executive Producer       Lars Jönsson
Line Producer            Malte Forssell
Associate Producers      Anna Knochenhauer
                         Peter Garde
D.O.P.                   Aril Wretblad
Casting director         Jesper Kurlandsky
Production Designer      Anna Asp
Make up                  Lisa Mustafa
Costume Designer         Denise Östholm
Composer                 Adam Nordén
Sound technicians        Niclas Merits
                         Robert Styrbjörn
Editing                  Michal Leszczylowski, SFK
                         Kristin Grundström
Sound Design             Per Sundström
                         Evelyn Ficarra
Sound Mix                Søren Bjerregaard
                         Per Sundström
VFX Supervisor           Søren Tomas
Post Production Manager Peter Bengtsson
Production Manager       Anita Tesler
Co-producers             Gillian Berrie
                         Gunnar Carlsson
                         Tomas Eskilsson
                         Louise Vesth
ZOZO                    Imad Creidi
RITA                    Antoinette Turk
ZOZO’S   MOTHER         Carmen Lebbos
LEO                     Viktor Axelsson
ZOZO’S   FATHER         Charbel Iskandar
ZOZO’S   GRANDMOTHER    Yasmine Awad
ZOZO’S   BROTHER        Jad Stephan

Technical information
Duration                103 min
Format                  35 mm (color) 1:2,35
Sound                   Dolby Digital & DTS

Press book
Text                    Jennie Dielemans
Translation:            Chris Anthony
Production Company

Zozo is produced by Anna Anthony for Memfis Film. During the last
ten years, Memfis Film has produced many of the most successful
films in Scandinavia including, Dalecarlians (Maria Blom), Fucking
Åmål (aka Show me Love), Together and Lilya 4-ever (Lukas
Moodysson), House of Angels (Colin Nutley), Jalla! Jalla! and Kops
(Josef Fares). In addition Memfis has also co-produced several of
Lars von Trier’s films amongst them, the Cannes awarded Breaking the
Waves and Dancer in the Dark.

House of Angels – Colin Nutley
Harry & Sonja – Björn Runge
Breaking the waves – Lars von Trier (executive producer)
Fucking Åmål (aka Show me love) – Lukas Moodysson
Love Fools – Leif Magnusson
Lucky People Center Int. – Johan Söderberg & Erik Pauser
A Summer Tale – Ulf Malmros
Dancer in the Dark – Lars von Trier (co-producer)
Together– Lukas Moodysson
Dog Days– Per Åhlin
Jalla! Jalla! – Josef Fares
Lilya 4-ever – Lukas Moodysson
Kops – Josef Fares
Dogville – Lars von Trier (co-producer)
A Hole In My Heart – Lukas Moodysson
Dalecarlians – Maria Blom
Love & Happiness – Kristina Humle
Manderlay – Lars von Trier (co-producer)
Zozo – Josef Fares

Shorts and pilots by Baker Karim, Maria Blom, Jens Jonsson, Josef
Fares, Reza Parsa, Lukas Moodysson and Babak Najafi.
Production Company
Memfis Film
Upplandsgatan 35
113 28 Stockholm
Phone: +46-8-335576
Fax: +46-8-309934

Swedish Film Institute
Gunnar Almér/Staffan Grönberg
Box 27126
S-102 52 Stockholm
Phone: +46 8 6651100
Fax: +46 8 6663698

Sales Agent
Trust Film Sales
Filmbyen 12
DK-2650 Hvidovre
Phone: +45-3686 8788
Fax: +45-3677 4448

Press contact in Toronto
Natja Rosner
Mobile +45 4091 5038

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