'The Last of Us': HBO Taps Arthouse Filmmakers Jasmila Žbanic and Ali Abbasi as Directors

HBO continues to hire directors almost exclusively from the arthouse industry to helm its high-profile series adaptation of the acclaimed video game The Last of Us. Oscar-nominated Quo vadis, Aida director Jasmila Žbanic and Border director Ali Abbasi are the latest filmmakers to be added to the roster of The Last of Us directors.

Deadline reports that both Jasmila Žbanic, who helmed the Bosnian war drama Quo vadis, Aida currently nominated for a Best International Feature Oscar, and Ali Abbasi, the director behind the singular Swedish dark fantasy film Border, have been tapped to direct episodes of The Last of Us.

They follow in the footsteps of the recently-announced Kantemir Balagov, the director of the acclaimed 2020 Russian drama Beanpole, who is helming the pilot episode.

HBO clearly has an eye out for arthouse directors, most of whom have directed acclaimed international features with a bleak bent, perhaps to lend The Last of Us even more prestige to overshadow its video game origins. The biggest hurdle facing The Last of Us series is that the video game was already so cinematic that a TV series adaptation could only copy and paste the narrative. But hiring acclaimed directors of award-winning international dramas could lend The Last of Us some credence, as well as a strong stylistic identity. The only question is whether these arthouse directors can make the transition to TV.

Created by Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin and Neil DruckmanThe Last of Us is a highly anticipated adaptation of the Sony Playstation franchise that swept the video game world in 2013 and pushed the boundaries for cinematic video game storytelling. The Last of Us is a “tale of the post-apocalypse, centering on the relationship between Joel, a smuggler in this new world, and Ellie, a teenager who may be key to a cure for a deadly pandemic. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle the 14-year-old girl out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey as they traverse the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.”

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey are set to star in the series as Joel and Ellie, respectively, in a story that takes place “twenty years after modern civilization has been destroyed.” Per Deadline, “Joel (Pascal), a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie (Ramsey), a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse across the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.”

Mazin, who created the Emmy-winning Chernobyl and previously wrote the Hangover sequels, is serving as a writer and showrunner on The Last of Us, where he’ll work alongsideDruckmann, the writer and creative director of both The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II.

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