ScreenDaily is reporting that Dakota Fanning will play the lead in Zeresenay Berhane Mehari’s refuge drama Sweetness In The Belly, which begins production in Dublin this week.

Fanning, who replaces Irish star Saoirse Ronan, will play Lilly Abdal, a woman caught between two worlds. Orphaned in Africa as a child, she escapes to England as a refugee, fleeing civil war. Lost in this cold new world, Lilly embraces the immigrant community in London, attempting to reunite people with their scattered families. But as her friend Amina discovers, Lilly’s mission isn’t purely selfless: A passionate lost love affair is revealed between Lilly and Aziz, an idealistic doctor. But can Lilly let go of the past?

The film is produced by Alan Moloney and Susan Mullen for Parallel Films, who previously worked with Dakota’s sister, Elle, on Mary Shelley, and Jennifer Kawaja and Julia Sereny for Sienna Films. Mehret Mandefro,Adrian Sturges, Laura Bickford, and Fiona Druckenmiller are executive producers. The film is backed by Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland, Telefilm Canada, the Ontario Media Development Corporation, and Eurimages.

Laura Phillips adapted the script from Camilla Gibb’s novel of the same name. Tim Fleming is DoP, with Paki Smith as Production Designer, Lorna Marie Mugan as Costume Designer, and Susan Maggi as Editor. Casting is by Daniel Hubbard.

In addition to Ireland, filming will take place in Ethiopia including at the UNESCO world heritage fortified city of Harar Jugol. Hanway Films are shopping Sweetness In The Belly at the American Film Market and have already secured a deal with Entertainment One for the Canadian rights.

The spin of this refugee originally being British and Caucasian, yet raised Muslim in Africa, makes this perspective incredibly fresh and timely. We are all thrilled to have caught Dakota Fanning at a really exciting point in her career. Gabrielle Stewart, Managing Director – Hanway Films

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