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26 February 2010


By: Latif Yahia

In recent days we have seen a huge diplomatic scandal explode; the use of European passports by alleged Mossad agents in the death squad sent to kill Hamas member Mahmoud al- Mabhouh on January 20, 2010 in his Dubai hotel room.

It is not the first time that Mossad has used this ploy and probably won’t be the last, other examples are the use of British passports in 1987, Canadian passports in 1997 and New Zealanders passports in 2004, but among the British and French passports used in the 20/01/2010 mission were Irish passports.

When the news broke it didn’t really surprise me, Mossad and Hamas have had a long and brutal relationship and both sides will go to any lengths to win, Britain and France are truly multi-cultural countries and have very established minority (although some would challenge the term minority) communities. So to attempt to portray oneself as British or French while not being as milky as ball of buffalo mozzarella is not difficult, the Irish however have managed to maintain their milky-ness as it is only in the last 15-20 years that they have truly experienced an upsurge in immigration.

When I arrived in Dublin in late 1997, I was easily spotted in the street, something that would work in reverse in London or Paris. In those days I was happy to stand out, it meant that there were not a lot of Arabs, but more importantly Iraqis in Ireland.

Having fled continental Europe from the long reach of Saddam, Uday and the regime that had been able to reach me as far away from Baghdad as London, Dublin seemed thankfully distant from it all. Life became relatively quiet for me and I was grateful.

So then, why am I writing this article? Well I did say life was “relatively” quiet for me in Ireland, I have never been one to see something wrong and shut my mouth, if I had then I probably would have died by Uday’s side or instead of him in the villa, a good little body-double to the end. So what really irks me about this whole passport situation is it is not the first time that the wrong people have gotten their hands on something that the Irish government tell me is valuable!

To give you a feel for my frustration I am giving you an excerpt from one (of many) letters that I have received from the dept of Justice regarding my own application for Naturalization

“ applications for naturalization must be processed in a way which preserves the necessary checks and balances to ensure that IT IS NOT UNDERVALUED AND IS ONLY GIVEN TO PEOPLE WHO GENUINELY SATISFY THE NECESSARY QUALIFYING CRITERIA.”

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, what has my citizenship application got to do with Mossad agents with Irish passports. Well, more than you might think, I am presently on my third application for citizenship and of course if they ever decide after the three years that I am waiting to give me an answer in the negative, I will indeed pack my bags and turn my back on the only country that has felt like home in my19 years outside Iraq. I could go on about having an Irish wife, kids etc but that’s another article.

My point here is that as far as I am concerned the Irish don’t value their passport because if they did then they wouldn’t give citizenship to people like Bahaa al-Araji a member of the Iraqi Parliament representing Al-Sadr party (for those of you unfamiliar with Iraqi politics, it is like Sinn Fein being the political wing of the IRA but I wouldn’t want to give the IRA a bad name) and the Head of Law in the present Iraqi government, someone who openly in the media said ‘fuck the Irish, I got what I wanted and so what if I used a fake name” if you were to ask him why he used a fake name I’m sure he would use the tried and tested ‘for my safety’ line, I have used this line, I will not deny it, but I meant it and have several scars to prove that I was under threat and barely escaped. Less about me, more about Bahaa al-Araji, he was unknown to the Iraqi opposition before 2003, he was a corrupt lawyer in Iraq but never actually went to court because he couldn’t get clients no matter how much he tried to undercut his contemporaries fees. He lived in Dublin on social welfare and drove his Nissan Micra, after the fall of Saddam he started to buy up properties in Dublin and it may be an exaggeration but only a small one, for me to say that he owns a quarter of the property in Dublin’s City centre. He now drives a bullet and bomb proof Mercedes around Dublin on his visits and also owns property in London and Dubai. Just for your own information his brother Hazim al-Araji a Shi’ite fundamentalist is a Canadian citizen and has openly declared that ‘all Sunnis should be killed’, he is the right hand man of Muqtada al-Sadr who is the commander of the al-Sadr militia, which is supported by Iran. But where are the Irish officials in the midst of all this, are they happy that they gave their valuable passport to Bahaa?

I suppose I was shocked at the response of the Irish Minister for foreign affairs Mr. Micheal Martin when questioned on radio and television about the use of Irish passports by Mossad, he seemed speechless firstly (typical of the Irish politician, eh.. ummm.. well…), and then after calling upon the Israeli envoy to Ireland Zion Evrony, stated that he ‘had nothing useful to tell Ireland’, embarrassing? I would think so.

The case continues..

While I am on the subject of Iraqis seeking refuge can I just say that pre 2003 there were a lot of Shi’ite Muslims coming out of Iraq looking for sanctuary, Saddam was an equal opportunities Dictator, he terrorized all equally, you got in his way he ran over you Shi’ite, Sunni or Kurd. After the fall of Saddam all Iraqis got themselves new ID, one with a Sunni name, the other with a Shi’ite name so they could produce identification to whichever side they encountered. But it is still mainly the Shi’ite that arrive in Europe, many now claiming that they are Sunni, because they are more likely to achieve refugee status. This is a very dangerous situation for Europe, the Shi’ite are backed by Iran, since 2003 the population of Iraq has grown immensely, when you take into consideration how many people have been killed, are refugees in Iraq, outside Iraq or have disappeared for the population to go from 20 million in the 90’s with war and sanctions to 32 million now, you have to ask, where did they all come from? The answer is easy, Iran. I have mentioned sleeper cells before, I am not a scaremonger, they exist.

In the early to mid-nineties a doctor called Abu Hasan came to Ireland, he practiced as a doctor in one of the hospitals in Dublin until the day he realized that there was no Shi’ite mosque, realizing the potential in this he laid down his stethoscope, dressed himself in clerical robes and headed to Iran. There he received funding to open a shi’ite Mosque, he then bought land and built a block of apartments supposedly in the name of the mosque in one of the most expensive areas in Dublin and went about renting them out to refugees, He enlisted many of the patrons of his mosque and they have become his eyes and ears in Irish government departments. Most notably Basim, he is abu Hasan’s eyes and ears in the department of Justice, as an interpreter he meets nearly every Arab that seeks asylum in Ireland and knows every Immigration officer personally, each case is reported to abu Hasan and then to Iran. Those whom he has not been in the interview room with usually come to him freely later on, as he is advertised in the Arabic community as ‘the go to guy’ for citizenship applications and refugee status, whether he purports it or someone does it for him, for 500 euros he supposedly puts your application in front of someone that will ‘do the job’. Obviously I have never tried him, it is not my level, maybe I should have, I may have had more luck! Again, Abu Hasan and Basim are both Irish citizens, as are most of the Arabs that attend Abu Hasan’s Mosque. I’m sure that they don’t undervalue the Irish passport.

There have been many passport scandals in Ireland dating back to when Mr Haughey was in charge, Charles Haughey (ex Irish Prime Minister) was an open book, he made no secret of his ducking and diving. But even the Irish had enough when he sold passports to rich Arabs for 1,000,000 Irish pounds each. Since then passports have been sold to rich Russians, manufactured by entrepreneurial Nigerians and now ‘faked’ by assassins.

There seemed to be a difference between the passports used from Britain, France, Ireland, Germany and now Australia, but it seems that they were existing passports with the wrong photos everything else was perfect, as far as I can discern the passports were older technology, in the case of the Irish passports issued at the latest in 2004. In 2005 the holographic page with biometrics was introduced making it difficult to forge. How do I know this? Well as I said earlier, Irish wife and kids.

Having spent the best part of thirteen years in Ireland I used to (and still do) become frustrated at the people who attain Irish citizenship, I found it mind bending that these people who couldn’t speak English, didn’t work and claimed social welfare for the whole time they were in the country were being sent out letters saying “Congratulations, welcome, new Irish citizen” while I was being refused, without reason I may add. I used to think, ‘these people aren’t right for the country’ but now I know that it’s not them that is unsuitable for Ireland it is me, for I have seen enough now to admit that if it’s a million euros they want for it, or they are happy with forgers and frauds then I don’t want to be Irish. In a country that links itself to the famous and powerful like the woman that used to baby-sit the cousin of someone who’s famous, Mohammed Ali, Barack and Michelle Obama being the latest with Irish links, I think I’ll take my chances elsewhere.

Soon enough my movie The Devil’s Double will be in the cinemas and we’ll see who’s doing the running then.

Best regards,
Dr.Latif Yahia.

25 February 2010

“This is a gangster movie, really,” says director Lee Tamahori

Currently shooting in Malta, The Devil’s Double tells the story of Saddam Hussein’s son Uday and his body-double Latif Yahia.

By: Leon Forde.
“This is a gangster movie, really,” says director Lee Tamahori, who wraps the film on April 10. “The story we’re telling is one of criminals operating with unbelievable amounts of money and grandeur and opulence and doing whatever the hell they like and getting away with it. And it’s also the story of an innocent, being thrust into it and forced – upon pain of death or the death of his entire family – to do something that he’d rather not do.”
Written by Michael Thomas (Backbeat) the action drama pulls no punches in its depiction of the brutality and debauchery that surrounded Uday, Saddam’s eldest son who was killed by US troops in 2003. “Even organised criminals have police that will chase them down. That wasn’t the case – this man could absolutely do whatever he wanted,” says Paul Breuls, producer of the film with Michael John Fedun, Catherine Vandeleene and Emjay Rechsteiner. Harris Tulchin is executive producer.
Power and corruption is central to the film, says Breuls. “All the rest – Saddam, his party and the war – it’s just a backdrop.”
Set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the film stars Dominic Cooper as both Uday and his body-double. “He’s an unbelievably gifted actor,” Tamahori says of Cooper. “He’s just transformed himself into the son of Saddam Hussein – he looks hallucinatingly accurate.” The dual roles are a challenge, says Tamahori, but Cooper is “physically and mentally up for it, and he’s young and energetic.”
Ludivine Sagnier is playing Uday’s concubine in the film, based on the books by Yahia.
The $15m film is produced by Breuls’ Antwerp-based outfit Corsan. The company financed 50% of The Devil’s Double through its tax fund – set up under Belgium’s tax shelter system for corporate investors from the territory – with the remainder from Corsan and its equity partners. The Devil’s Double is the fifth film produced by Corsan under this model, with Roland Joffe’sSingularity set to shoot in India this summer. The company’s sales arm, Corsan World Sales, debuted The Devil’s Double at Berlin.
The production scouted locations in Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco before opting for Malta, which offers an incentive of up to 22% of eligible expenditure to be obtained as a cash rebate. “The Malta [incentive] is tried and trusted and solid, and it’s the EU and it’s Euro-driven and it’s very established,” Breuls explains. “And then you marry it to the fact Malta has a good infrastructure, that it has experienced crews.”

The Devil’s Double is largely using locations on the island, with a couple of weeks on stages built by the production in a rented warehouse. There will also be CG work to create the Baghdad palaces. Tamahori is shooting on the RED HD camera. “I’m very much a convert to new digital formats,” the director says. “I’ve shot commercials on the RED. I haven’t shot a feature on it but I like it a lot.”

24 February 2010

NZ director tackles Iraqi tale

Kiwi director Lee Tamahori is back at work in Malta on his latest movie.

The 'Once Were Warriors' helmsman is on location for new action drama, 'The Devil's Double'.

Starring 'Mamma Mia's Dominic Cooper and French star Ludivine Sagnier, the film is based on Latif Yahia’s biographical novel.

Cooper plays both Saddam Hussein’s son, Uday Hussein, and his body double Latif Yahia. Sagnier

plays Sarrab, Uday’s concubine and the secret lover of Latif.

Described as a ordinary man’s struggle in a world of power, deceit, betrayal, violence and seduction, hopes are high for the New Zealand director's latest effort.

When army lieutenant Latif Yahia is summoned from the frontline to Saddam’s palace, he is faced with an impossible request: to be Uday’s ‘fiday’ - his body double - or have his family condemned to death.

With his life on the line, his fate is decided. Latif begins his journey as Uday Hussein, one of Iraq’s most powerful and hated men. He learns to walk, talk and look like him - and he experiences the extravagance of Uday’s world with its fast cars, endless money and easy women.

No word yet on when the film is due out but with two hot young stars, there's plenty of buzz about it already.

14 February 2010

Consistency the key for local film services industry

By: Patrick Cooke

Foreign film production companies may have slashed budgets last year in the wake of the global financial crisis, but Malta's film services industry is attracting a consistent flow of productions to the country for the first time in its history, according to Film Commissioner Luisa Bonello.

Despite a slow start to last year, Malta still attracted 14 foreign productions to its shores, compared with eight productions in 2008 and 10 in 2007.

"We only had a few quiet months in the early part of the year which broke the continuous spell of productions since 2007. This is the first time we have seen consistency in the industry," Ms Bonello said.

Last year's productions consisted of eight TV programmes, four feature films and two commercials. Production companies came from nine different countries including Italy, UK, Germany and Scandinavia.

In all, these productions are estimated to have spent €6.5 million directly on Maltese services, crew and goods, compared with an estimated €20.6 million in 2008 and €4.5 million in 2007.

Big budget Spanish production Agora, shot entirely in Malta, "distorted" the financial figures for 2008, but Ms Bonello thinks the fall in revenue should not distract from the fact that there were more productions filmed in Malta last year compared with 2008.

"Even though less money was spent, there were more productions, more work, more activity for the local sector, our crew improved and secured higher positions and general progress continues to be registered," she said.

She added that the key to developing a successful local film services industry was to ensure productions were in prep or shooting every day of the year.

"Hollywood's big-scale productions are a bonus, but they can never sustain us. Our aim is to attract the medium and small, budget films and TV productions, and I think they are developing into a steady niche," she said, adding productions from India, Japan and Russia contributing to the diversity of the flow of work.

"In these types of productions, local crews can take higher positions which will help them learn. More experienced crews available in Malta make us more appealing as a filming destination," she said.

Ms Bonello said she was unable to say with any certainty that there would be growth in terms of productions filmed in Malta or revenue generated by the local film services industry this year, but she expressed confidence that there would continue to be a consistent flow of productions.

The commission is in touch with several potential productions for this year, including returning clients. An Italian TV production is set to shoot next month, and currently shooting is The Devil's Double, based on the book of the same title by Latif Yahia, who was the double of Saddam Hussein's sadistic son Uday during the dictator's reign. Malta is doubling as Iraq in the nine-week shoot - which began on February 6 - but will also feature as Malta "in a scene or two".

"Doubling as Iraq is good because it's another country that we can say we have doubled as when trying to attract productions," Ms Bonello said.

India, which has the largest film industry in the world, is one market the Film Commission is targeting in the hope that Indian production companies will return regularly. Last year, song and dance sequences for the film Vinnai Thankdi Varuvaya (Will You Come from the Sky?) were shot in Malta over eight days. Ms Bonello met major production companies and studios as part of a trade delegation to India last November.

"We had very, very good feedback. They have a hunger for new locations. It's a very different style of film-making but one that can generate substantial amount of work for Malta and also promote its image to a huge home audience. It's about diversifying," she said.

When Malta introduced its audiovisual financial incentives scheme in 2007, in the form of a cash rebate given on eligible EU expenditure to qualifying production companies, it was only the third of its kind to be approved by the EU. The scheme has been extended to the end of 2012 and remains a crucial factor in attracting productions to Malta, but now almost every EU country offers similar incentives.

Although competition for attracting films is fierce, Ms Bonello believes Malta can continue to compete because of its strong combination of attractions. She cited the water tanks at the Mediterranean Film Studios, which are the largest in Europe, the backlots of Fort Ricasoli, the incentives scheme, Malta's capacity to double for almost anywhere in the Mediterranean, and the ability of local crew to speak English as being the main draws.

Malta's main shortfalls are the absence of huge soundstages and the lack of technical crew in high places, training schemes for local people and film-specific technical equipment, but Ms Bonello insists measures are being taken to address these issues.

05 February 2010

Dominic Cooper, Ludivine Sagnier

see 'Double'

Belgian-backed film based on Saddam Hussein novel

By Stuart Kemp

LONDON -- Lee Tamahori's action drama "The Devil's Double" has enlisted Dominic Cooper and Ludivine Sagnier to star in the Belgium-backed production.

Cooper will play the dual roles of Saddam Hussein's son, Uday Hussein and Latif Yahia, his body double in the movie based on Latif Yahia's biographical novel of the same name. Sagnier plays Sarrab, Uday's concubine and secret lover to Latif.

Belgian production company Corsan is making the project from a screenplay penned by Michael Thomas. Produced by Paul Breuls, Michael John Fedun, Catherine Vandeleene and Emjay Rechsteiner, the project is exec produced by Harris Tulchin.

Tamahori has become a go-to action director after bursting on the scene in 1994 with his Maori tale "Once Were Warriors," and now boasts a resume which includes Bond outing "Die Another Day" and "XXX2: The State of the Union." The project, currently shooting in Malta, will be repped for international by Corsan World Sales at the upcoming European Film Market in Berlin.

'The Devil's Double' Starts Filming in Malta

Saddam Hussein inner circle drama is directed by Lee Tamahori and stars Dominic Cooper

Ludivine Sagnier joins Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double as shoot begins

Ludivine Sagnier and Latif Yahia

By Andreas Wiseman

Principal photography on Lee Tamahori’s The Devil’s Double has begun in Malta.

Belgian producers Corsan have confirmed that French actress Ludivine Sagnier has joined the cast of the thriller, which tells the true story of the body double for Saddam Hussein’s son Uday. Dominic Cooper also stars.

Corsan World Sales is selling international rights to the film and Paradigm Motion Picture Finance Group is representing domestic rights.

Cooper will play the dual roles of Saddam Hussein’s son, Uday Hussein and Latif Yahia, his body double and Sagnier will play Sarrab, Uday’s concubine and secret lover to Latif.

Paul Breuls, Michael John Fedun, Catherine Vandeleene and Emjay Rechsteiner are producing while Harris Tulchin is executive producer.

Michael Thomas adapted the screenplay from Yahia’s biographical novel of the same name.

The Belgian producers have assembled a strong production team including Centurion director of photography Sam McCurdy and costume designer Anna Sheppard, a two-time Oscar nominee. The nine week shoot is due to wrap on April 10.

Corsan is also currently in pre-production on Roland Joffe’s new feature, Singularity, which will shoot in India this summer.