Art and Experience: Hany Abu-Assad (“Paradise Now”) premiered “The Idol” at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival. His film, a coming-of-age story inspired by the Gazan singer Mohammed Assaf, garnered critical acclaim and Oscar buzz. Now, Indiewire has an exclusive behind-the-scenes video in which the director and crew members talk about the hardships they faced, casting decisions and one of the mistakes they almost made. 

“The Idol” follows the journey of Assaf, his sister and two friends in Gaza, from their time singing at weddings as youngsters to Assaf auditioning and becoming the winner of the second season of “Arab Idol.” With this biopic, the Academy Award-nominated director hoped to send a message about the under-privileged children in the Arab world and to show the loss and perseverance Assaf had to endure to make his dreams come true. 

Shooting for the film took place outside of Palestinian locations in Gaza and Jenin and in Beirut, Cairo and Jordan. Abu-Assad previously stated that Assaf united all the Arabs in the Middle East with his voice and that this movie is an homage to their unbreakable spirit.

Abu-Assad has had great success at Cannes, his 2013 film “Omar” won the Special Jury Prize. His film “Paradise Now” also won the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006 and both pictures were nominated for Academy Awards. 

“The Idol” will have a limited U.S. release beginning May 6th.