C’est Un Jour Pour se rendre à la rencontre cinéma du Festival Palest’In & Out ce soir à 19h à l’Institut des Cultures d’Islam. Le public pourra débattre avec la réalisatrice Hiam Abbas et avoir la chance de voir en avant-première le court-métrage « Paper Boat » réalisé par les lauréats cinéma Amer Nasser et Mahmoud Abu Ghalweh.
CUJP – Hi ! Could you please introduce yourselves to our readers? Who are you, where are you from (your age, place of birth, where did you grow up, studies, hobbies).
MAHMOUD – My name is Mahmoud Abu Ghalwa, I was a Mathematics teacher in the past. I have been working for nine years as an editor for documentary and feature films, and at the moment I work as a production manager for UNRWA TV in Gaza. I was born on and grew up in northern Gaza, and studied Mathematics there. My hobbies are drinking espresso and sometimes I just like to be silent and think about why we came into this life; this is the reason why I try to do something and bring about change.
AMER – My name is Amer Nasser, I am 26 years. I was born and grew up in northern Gaza, and studied business administration. My hobby is producing films about the reality of Palestinian refugees, the political, social and economic situation of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. I have started producing films in 2010 with the film directors Arab and Tarzan Nasser, who are my brothers, and film director Khalil Al-Mozayin. I have worked in producing several drama and documentary films. I am currently working as a producer at UNRWA TV, and am a member of the Red Carpet Film Festival team.
CUJP – How did you meet? Why and mainly how did you come to work together, more specifically in the writing, creating and producing of this short movie? Who does what in the team?
MAHMOUD & AMER – I knew Amer’s brothers, Arab and Tarzan, before I knew Amer. Since then, Amer and I have been working together in many documentary films. Amer is well known as a professional film producer in Gaza and if you ask him to bring the sea, he can bring the sea to you – it’s not about love, it’s about work. The story of the film Paper Boat is based on my experience. When I met Mahmoud Abu Sall we started thinking about the idea together, and then he started to write the script. For months, basically every night, we sat together in a coffee shop in Gaza and discussed the story. Then, Amer and I started to look for funding but we it was very difficult and we did not find it. So we spoke with everyone we know, the camera operator Hussein Jaber, the actors, Abeer Ahmad, Feras Al Masri and Mohammad Zidan, and we told them one thing: we don’t have the money, but we have a good film idea and we can do this together. Everyone was convinced by the idea and worked without money. Everyone believed in the film.
CUJP – Can you tell us how and why you applied for the festival l Palest’ In & Out’s award in the young creation video category? How did you hear about it? (Family, friends, internet, local cultural institutions…?)
MAHMOUD & AMER – We knew about the film festival thanks to Arab and Tarzan, so we just decided to try our luck and apply.
CUJP – Can you please tell us about your short movie? (Plot(s), characters, spatial and temporal framework). Which cinematographic genre could it be related to? (A philosophical fairy tale? a social drama? a fictional documentary?)
MAHMOUD & AMER – What I wanted to do is to tell a story from Gaza in a new way, to develop a new way of filmmaking. But, although the film is from Gaza, but the message is for the whole world. So we thought to make a film that has a radically different concept. For example, Feras (in the film) does not want to have a baby because he does not want to pass on to his baby the slavery he feels in his life… So the story is about the ability of people to live in an unliveable place – like Gaza – without the most basic things anyone in this world needs: food, safety and sex. I [Mahmoud] thought a lot about how I could transform this idea into a film; I researched a lot about possible characters in Gaza (there are not many actors in Gaza). I was looking for a sad face in Gaza, and I found it in Feras and Abeer; Feras was not an actor, he was working as a supervisor in a hotel, and Abeer was a theatre actor. I was very lucky to have found them. The next step was to identify the place where the story would take place, and Amer eventually found the perfect spot: an abandoned, damaged house, full of garbage and with a kerosene lamp on the floor. Then I thought about who could do the filming (be the cinematographer), because unfortunately, there are only a handful of people in Gaza who are capable of doing cinematography. Hussein Jaber was one of them. We tried to do a special composition, and we succeeded. I would also like to mention that the music in the film is not just background music, but actually almost an actor in itself. It was done by Jaber El Haj, who has a lot of experience in creating music for different types of productions.
CUJP – Even if we probably can guess, why did you choose this title “Paper Boat”?
MAHMOUD –I dream about creating a big paper boat and sail away.
CUJP- Is it your first short film (directed and produced)?
MAHMOUD – I directed many experimental films before (video art) and I was assistant director and editor for the long feature film Sara 2014; this was my first step to direct and produce my own film.
AMER – I produced and directed many short and long films, drama and documentary films. I managed the production of two films Sarah 2014 and Gaza 36 mm for the director Khalil Al Mozayen. I also produced the film Gaza Graph for the director Yousef Nateel, and directed the film Gaza a small Studio and Truce.
CUJP – Why did you choose cinema as an art? How did you evolve in this art?
MAHMOUD – In 2008 I watched a film called The Foundation (with Hugh Jackman) which is about immortality, about the tree of life. From this moment, I began to think about cinema, to learn and read about it, and to listen and watch. Since in Gaza there are not a lot of experienced cinema directors, I taught myself a lot but also learned a lot from one of the few experienced directors, Khalil Al Muzzaian, who had studied cinema in Russia and for whose film, Sara 2014, I volunteered as an assistant director and editor. Eventually, the first thing I needed to do before becoming a cinema director was to get rid of the fear of failing and just try and learn.
AMER – May e because through cinema and art we can talk and express things we feel and live better, especially considering that we live in a difficult situation and suffer from damages, blockade, conflicts, wars and factions. Through cinema I can send messages that are inside me via a neutral channel.
CUJP – What were / are your inspiration(s): cinematic, literary, philosophical, photographic … mathematics? Did the work of Arab and Tarzan inspire you?
MAHMOUD – I am also a writer and have already written two books called City of Strangers – short stories about the inner conflicts of the people of Gaza – and Idiot Portray – a short story about my childhood. My main inspiration is the concept of time and people’s basic necessities: food, safety, and sex. I believe that the conflict with time is responsible for most conflicts in the world: conflicts inside human beings, between human beings, and between human beings and their environment. Many books have inspired me, but two did in a particular way: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Mouth Of Time by Eduardo Guilliano. Mathematics also inspire me because I believe that if you are perfect in Mathematics, you fail with emotions. Logic and feelings do not complement each other, and this conflict inspires me.
Finally, the work of Arab and Tarzan has certainly inspired me. We have been friends for seven years and worked together in Gaza. I remember a story that happened to Tarzan and I, and I wrote it down and called it Soul of Photography. When Tarzan read the story he said we needed to write a scenario based on it, but we never did…
AMER – I was inspired by the movies 21 Grams and Amores Perros by Mexican director Alejandro Inarritu: their details and the ways these details were connected to one another encouraged me to achieve something similar, to direct all the details and connect the events together. Watching the old Egyptian movies adapted from Egyptian novelist Najeb Mahfoz’s work also inspired me, especially the beautiful details and the description of the characters featured in these movies. I also love manufacturing creations, which are more like the golden theory of relativity that will make you create a configuration that has special beauty, and reminds me of some old Russian films directed by the genius Andrei Tarkovsky. Finally, live in a house with a cinematic family who loves cinema, so this definitely was a major reason for me loving cinema.
Arab and Tarzan crush all borders with their art, and always search for the special story – in films and in paintings.
CUJP – How did you realize and produce the film? (Was there any funding? If so, from where? How long did it take you to produce and direct it?)
AMER –We tried to produce a short cinematic film related to Gaza, with a new cinematic image, and we wanted to make with philosophically unusual: elitist whilst at the same time drawing the attention of everyone, because it talks about slavery and the life that we live today in Gaza. There was no funding except for our personal funding and the contribution of the crew and staff to the film production.
MAHMOUD – It took us seven months. When we had almost finished, we realised this is not what we want, and we changed the whole scenario and started over again. The film is now also officially selected for two other international film festivals, the Boston Palestinian Film Festival and the LatinArab International Festival in Argentina.
CUJP – What difficulties did you face while directing/producing it, but also when you wrote the script?
AMER – The production problems were the lack of funding from the film industry, and the difficulty of finding and getting for free the old materials that reflect the ancient philosophical case of the film. It was also difficult to reach an appropriate depiction of the movie’s location, with a number of actresses who refused acting the role for social concerns, as well as the constant power outage which forced us to wait until the morning to resume filming, thereby increasing the film costs…
Also, Hamas limits giving permits for filmmaking and especially those that contain scenes with actresses.
CUJP – What are your future artistic plans? Do you have any together? What do you want to do during the three months of your artistic residency at the Cité internationale des Arts de Paris ?
MAHMOUD & AMER – Unfortunately, we were not able to come to Paris because we did not get the Jordanian permits to leave Gaza and fly to France.
MAHMOUD – I was planning on writing the script for my first long feature film in Paris, during the artistic residency. But now I will write it in Gaza; the film will be called Sin Edit. It is about an editor in Gaza who starts to get confused between reality and imagination, due to his work as an editor and his own life story. Amer and I will work together on this film as well as writer Mahmoud Abu Sall, cinematographer Hussein Jaber, and composer Jaber El Haj.
AMER – I am looking to work on producing a feature film for my brothers, directors Arabs and Tarzan Nasser, during the coming period.
CUJP – What would your response be to people who claim cinema and culture are not a priority for Gaza and Palestine?
MAHMOUD & AMER – We think a country without cinema is a country without culture. A country without culture, without knowledge, cannot resist, or be.
CUJP- Are Gaza people cinema lovers? What is left of cinemas in Gaza? What are the screening and distribution areas available in Gaza?
MAHMOUD – Yes, Gaza people are cinema lovers but since 1993 there are no longer any cinemas in Gaza. However, since the aftermath of the 2014 war, there is the Red Carpet Film Festival. In 2015, I was the technical director for this festival, and I remember the peoples’ expressions when they watched films on the big screen. They cried together and laughed together. I believe cinema is about sharing feelings. Luckily, there is the internet and young people especially are able to see the world through film [on the internet].
AMER – During the Red Carpet Film Festival in Gaza, people came and walked on the red carpet: children, elders and young people got into the showroom that displayed films – these people came because of the lack of cinemas or theatres in Gaza …
CUJP – Finally, our signature question: “Today, is a day for…”? (Could you please complete the sentence?)
MAHMOUD – Today, is a day for being free.
AMER – Today, is a day for being with Arab & Tarzan.
Interview by Inès Colot, Assia Hebbache and Dylan le Foussat