Antone Saliba Launches Untamed Talent

Antone Saliba Launches Untamed Talent

Untamed Talent, a management and production company led by former Mister Smith Entertainment executive Antone Saliba, is launching with the backing of Dubai-based Front Row Productions, a joint venture of leading Middle East distribution companies Front Row Filmed Entertainment and Empire Entertainment.

Front Row Productions will provide capital and strategic value to support Untamed Talent’s goals to innovate new business models covering the South West Asia and North Africa region, the fastest-growing entertainment market in the world. The focus will be not only on representing filmmakers from established Middle East industry hubs of Egypt and Saudi, it will also identify, develop and promote talent from traditionally underrepresented countries within the region such as Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran.

Untamed will work on a non-exclusive basis with all production and distribution parties in the region, as well as U.S. and international studios and streamers to maximize opportunities for its clients.

Untamed Talent has unveiled its initial client roster of writers and directors, which includes Abu Bakr Shawky, whose first feature “Yomeddine” (2018) was nominated for a Palme d’Or and won the Francois Chalais Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and whose second feature “Hajjan” (2023) premiered at Toronto and will have its Middle East and North Africa premiere at the Red Sea Film Festival; Bassel Ghandour, Academy Award nominated writer and producer of “Theeb” (2014), and director of the Locarno Film Festival premiere “The Alleys” (2021); and Amjad Al Rasheed, whose critically acclaimed first film “Inshallah a Boy” (2023) became the first feature from Jordan to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, was subsequently selected by Toronto, and will have its MENA premiere at the Red Sea Film Festival.

Other clients include Firas Khoury, whose debut feature film “Alam” (2022) premiered as part of Toronto’s Next Wave; Yassmina Karajah, who premiered her short “Rupture” (2018) at Toronto and recently co-wrote the upcoming Front Row-produced feature “The Sand Castle,” which stars Nadine Labaki, Ziad Bakri and the “Capernaum” siblings Zain and Riman Al Rafeeaa; Faris Alrjoob, whose short film “The Red Sea Makes Me Wanna Cry” (2023) became the first short film from Jordan to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival; and Mayar Al Nouri, creator, writer, and director of an upcoming Arabic-language original limited series.

Additional clients from the wider region will be announced in the coming months.

Saliba said: “At Untamed, we’re combining our understanding of local languages, cultures and stories, with a deep knowledge of the global entertainment business, to elevate the voices from the most innovative players in this region. SWANA filmmakers have previously had to rely solely on the support on European co-production funding and festival selection to find new audiences. Our vision is to fundamentally influence the regional infrastructure and strengthen relationships with international studios to help filmmakers find additional opportunities to express their unique creative vision. We believe this will allow them to reach wider audiences on a global scale.”

Front Row CEO, Gianluca Chakra, added: “With the local theatrical and digital market expanding, there is a concrete need for such a venture in order to foster new local talent and compete with the increasingly sophisticated western content audiences are consuming. We saw immediately that Antone’s vision for Untamed Talent fills a gap in the local and broader market. His ability to identify, connect with, and grow bourgeoning new regional talent is critical. Untamed will be instrumental in illuminating untapped opportunities and the key to unlocking them is in championing our deeply diverse SWANA creative talent pool to promote fresh and exciting new voices.”

Empire international president, Mario Haddad Jr., added: “As producers, we recognize that the wider industry needs a new wave of talent, but we all struggle to find those voices. We believe in collective cooperation in growing the market so what Untamed is bringing to the table will benefit all of the companies and creatives in this region. We’re backing this venture because there is an inherent need and are happy to welcome strategic new partners and broaden Untamed’s pool of unique talent.”

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