SAND AND FIRE - The Impossible Dream

SAND & FIRE (The impossible Dream!) tells the extraordinary story of DOMINGO BADIA, alias ALI BEY EL ABBASSI (born, 1767 Barcelona – died, 1818 Damascus) and that of LADY HESTER STANHOPE, otherwise known as MELEKI, QUEEN OF PALMYRA, (born, 1776 Kent, England – died, 1839 Djîhoun, Syria). Set between 1802 and 1818, the plot of the film has resonance for today with searing realism as it depicts a moderate peaceful Islam confronting another which is fanatical and cruel. It is a true story about a Spanish army officer, Domingo Badia, who is sent to Morocco as an explorer by Prime Minister GODOY with a false identity of one, Ali Bey, son of the Emir of Damascus (assassinated by the Turks). He is, in fact, a secret agent with a mission to overthrow the Moroccan Sultan, Moulay Slimane, who trades wheat with the English for munitions destined to destabilize Andalusian Spain. Within this time period, a certain Richard Brothers (well known for his extremely detailed prediction of the beheading of King Louis XVI) revealed in a book that Lady Hester Stanhope, niece of the English Prime Minister, William Pitt, would be crowned Queen of Palmyra, the new Zenobia. Domingo Badia meets Lady Hester when he goes to London on a mission. It is the starting point of a passionate tumultuous love affair which endures for fourteen years before its tragic end; their love unable to sustain two irreconcilable visions of Islam. SAND & FIRE (The impossible Dream!) is an adventure film of fearless heroes and their thrilling exploits in keeping with the epic tradition. A film-goer, travelling with Ali Bey through Spain, France, England and Morocco, is transported to sumptuously decorated palaces in Madrid, Paris, London and Morocco of the early 19th century and with Lady Hester to the burning sands of Arabia and the ancient ruins of Palmyra.
SAND & FIRE (The impossible Dream!) is a flight of fancy which emphasises heroics, ambition, love, and tragedy – the film’s true protagonists. It also attracts our attention with its burning contemporary issues: war, barbarity, religious fanaticism, and the imposition of western values as a universal model…

  • Souheil Benbarka
  • Bernard Stora and Souheil Benbarka
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 55 minutes
  • Production Budget:
    10,000,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Souheil Benbarka

Souheil Benbarka’s career in film began in Rome in 1962 when, by pure chance, he was present at the filming of a scene from Federico Fellini’s 8½.
Four years later, coming first in the entrance examination, he gained a place at the Centre for Experimental Cinematography of Rome in the department of film direction. He became assistant to Pier Pasolini for Oedipus Rex a few months later.
In 1970 he set up in Morocco and from 1972 onwards produced and directed ten documentaries, more than two hundred promotional films, and eight full length films. Since Les milles et une mains in 1972 (with worldwide distribution), to his latest film, SAND & FIRE (The impossible Dream!), he has directed: Claudia Cardinale - Harvey Keitel - Ugo Tognazzi - Claude Rich - F. Murray Abraham - Fernando Rey - Marie Christine Barrault - Irène Papas - Laurent Terzief - Philippe Léotard - Angela Molina - Serghei Bondartchouk - Max Von Sydow - Giancarlo Giannini - Massimo Ghini - Marisa Paradès - Philippe Le Roi - Miriam Makeba - Helmut Berger - Florinda Bolkan - Violante Placido - Mimsy Farmer - Carolina Crescentini -Rodolfo Sancho - Imanol Arias...
He has been executive producer in Morocco for about thirty films, among them: Franco Zeffirelli’s Gesù di Nazareth, -Gillo Pontecorvo’s Queimada, - Albert Negrin’s Il Segreto del Sahara – Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ and Kundun – and Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and Black Hawk Down.
From 1986 until 2003 he was Director General of the Moroccan Cinematographic Centre.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I have always had freedom of choice concerning the topics and characters of all my previous films. For this one, I feel designated - as if it has chosen me… With his accomplished seduction, no one can resist the charms of the trickster, Badia /Ali Bey: From the most humble subjects to the grandest dignitaries, from the Sultan Moulay Slimane, to Lady Hester, Queen of Palmyra, to Napoleon himself who enquires of Talleyrand:
«Your man – is he genius or visionary?» To which Talleyrand answers.
«A subtle combination of both, Sire. Great men are made that way.»
«I’ll ignore that impertinence.» replies Napoleon.