For decades, Allen has been haunted by the question, "What can be done to prevent genocide?" She wrote "Rape Warfare" as part of her response to that question. The book eventually led to "His Name is Daniel," shot in Sarajevo and released for global broadcast in 2001. (The film was recently shown on campus.)
Allen's book and script, as well as Goyard's story, provided grist for "The Bitter Chalice," which concerns a Jewish American woman who becomes involved with a Bosnian Muslim engineer at Syracuse University. The couple marries and relocates to Sarajevo, where they are caught in the crossfire of an ethnic cleansing campaign in the Bosnian War.
"The girl's American citizenship doesn't matter to the Serbian nationalist militia, who throw her in with Bosnian and Croatian prisoners," says Allen. "The title comes from an old Bosnian proverb, 'Death is a bitter chalice from which we all must drink.'"
Allen sees the chalice as a metaphor for the womb, which is "raped and rendered bitter." "Jacques found the quote, which, in the screenplay, is posted next to a dead body on a wall in a Bosnian warehouse," she adds.
Allen collaborated with Goyard, who runs a production company in Italy, through a series of trans-Atlantic trips and any number of early morning Skype sessions. The producer has known Allen since the '70s, and says that collaborating with her remotely is not too different from working with her face-to-face.
"With most writers, we meet, have a cup of coffee, and we write," says Goyard, speaking by phone from his office in Rome. "With Beverly, we're on the phone, sipping espresso, and writing. It goes very smoothly."
Allen recalls one memorable visit when she attended Garret Brown's Steadicam seminar at Goyard's invitation on the Italian island of Ischia. Brown is the Oscar-winning cinematographer and inventor of the Steadicam who also later visited Syracuse University. "At that point, we were still hammering out the details of the story and were working on the characters," she recalls, praising her colleague for his thorough technical knowledge. "After we hung out all day with Garret, Jacques and I sat in a caf (c) and argued about our characters. What a mind he has for story, character, and setting."