Lena Dunham to Adapt Syrian Refugee Story for Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams

     October 29, 2018


Lena Dunham has found a new writing assignment. Per Variety, the Girls creator, writer, and director has been tapped to adapt the non-fiction book A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival. The book was written by Melissa Fleming, chief spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner, and chronicles the true story of Doaa Al Zamel, a young mother of two and Syrian refugee who fled Egypt for Sweden by boat, became shipwrecked, and survived for days in the open water holding her two children.

Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams are producing the Paramount Pictures project through Spielberg’s Amblin Partners and Abrams’ Bad Robot, and while the story of a Syrian refugee is certainly important, no doubt Dunham’s hiring as the person to write the script is raising eyebrows.


Image via HBO

The Girls creator is coming off of her HBO adaptation Camping, a limited series based on a U.K. series of the same name. That’s currently airing, but Camping marks the final project as part of Dunham’s creative partnership with Jenni Konner, who served as co-showrunner on Girls and Camping. In the wake of Girls’ conclusion, Dunham and Konner signed on to write Hollywood’s English-language remake of the German comedy Toni Erdmann, but Dunham and Konner are no longer involved with that project.

This new film marks Dunham’s highest profile writing assignment to date, so it’ll be interesting to see how she tackles the material. Admittedly a white woman telling the story of a Syrian refugee isn’t the best optics, but Dunham has shown a knack for compelling relationship drama through her previous work, and at heart this sounds like a story about a strong and powerful woman who saved her family against all odds. On a base level that’s unique and a story worth telling—at least this won’t be another Gerard Butler or Liam Neeson vehicle where grizzled paternal figure saves the day—but one hopes someone who more intimately understands Syrian culture becomes involved at some point.

Spielberg and Abrams’ attachment speaks volumes about their belief in Dunham’s take on the material, and it’ll be interesting to see how this one materializes going forward. Here’s hoping a female filmmaker is set to direct this powerful true story.

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