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The Cinematic Verses

BRINGING PALESTINE TO THE SILVER SCREEN
AN INTERVIEW WITH HANNA ELIAS

By: Jamil Moledina

After seeing the world premier of The Olive Harvest at the 46th San Francisco Int’l Film Festival, we had to speak with its creator, Hanna Elias. The film serves as one of the first narrative films written by a Palestinian, showing life in Palestine from their perspective. Since film in general has become, for better of for worse, one of the most influential ways that people learn about the rest of the world and its history, the importance of this film cannot be understated. The fact that it is also a passionate and compelling account of a family, written and performed in such a way that anyone can identify with the characters, just makes it that much more astonishing and enjoyable an experience. Once we sat down with Hanna, we realized that the passion infused into every line of dialogue in the film effervesces through his conversation in the real too. Read on, for an illuminating look at filming a world you’ve likely only seen on the 11:00 o’clock news.

The Cinematic Verses: This is the first Palestinian narrative feature film that I’ve seen, could you describe the history of Palestinian cinema?


Hanna Elias: There are two waves of Palestinian cinema. The first was at the end of the 60’s and the beginning of the 70’s – it was totally destroyed when Israel occupied Lebanon. When they attacked Beirut, they destroyed the archives also. See we didn’t have the mentality of keeping two copies everywhere. And the Israeli intelligence made sure to do that. It’s just a big waste. Those archives were mostly Palestinian cinema expressed by three directors in general. The next wave started now, we’re living it. We are six Palestinian in the world, four in Diaspora, and two in Palestine. All have made films except one, so we have had five features within the last two years. And it was not by accident that the new wave of Palestinian cinema was accompanied by documentary filmmakers. Given the Palestinian peace accord, it was natural that art express itself also – it is parallel to the politics. The whole thing collapsed after the second Intifadah. I don’t know who is shooting now, but I am the most recent from the group with this my first feature.


TCV: How did you manage to get your project financed?


HE: It was a San Jose entrepreneur in the high tech business. I had met him when he was helping to promote connecting schools in Israel and Palestine using the internet. We became good friends. He likes my politics, the way I see the world there. The way I like coexistence and dialogue. I expressed it while I was at UCLA Film School, both on the campus and in the community. He decided to support me. As simple as that. But he didn’t know the mess he would get into.

It started with a little money, and it adds an adds, and it never ends. He got stuck in a way, but it then became a good stuck – we bonded as friends. He’s not just a producer. He’s a friend, partner, and a producer. I introduced him to the world of cinema; he introduced me to the world of the internet, and how to conduct myself as a producer. He was a good perspective on how to deal with money. And he is a man of the world. I never saw a young man, he’s about 47, so open to humanity and sharing and embracing. He supported people through funds in Africa, in Asia, and in all the reservation in the US. He hooked them up on the internet at his own expense.


TCV: What’s his name?


HE: Kamran Elahian. He’s really amazing. He lost all the funds, hundreds of thousands after the Intifadah. All the things he built were destroyed, gone, zero. Yet he still has hope, and the integrity to do it all over again. That’s very impressive.


To give you another example – in my region, there is a community of about 80,000 Arabs, and a woman can’t go at night to study at the university , because it is not allowed. So I asked him if he would support a computer center where women could learn, and do their paperwork through the internet. And yes, he supported that, on the condition that the community should come up with one-third of the money. And they did – and they built it –which is great for everybody. And the other condition was that they would charge non-students who come and use it between 5:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m., so that the center regenerates itself. It’s like that phrase, if you give people fish, and they will eat for a day, if you teach them to fish, and they will have food for a lifetime. So I’m happy with his involvement, his commitment, and his vision. It’s great to have people like that. And he’s not after anything. He doesn’t have a scam, or doing it for the ego, or some profit motive. He’s just a great man of the world’ it’s as simple as that.


TCV: Getting to the film itself, how was The Olive Harvest conceived?


HE: Since I left my village, I feel homesick. Every time I go back, I work in the groves. Actually, it’s a huge village grove and the color dominates the whole area – it’s on the hillsides in Galilee. So when I went to cross the hillsides on time, I looked at my village, the valley beneath me, and all the tops of the trees. The wind was blowing, so it was moving trees like waves in the ocean. And all the olives were dancing. All for me, welcoming me. I was amazed, just sitting there, watching this. I needed to absorb this, because I’m not there all the time. It’s like when you see your lover again, you gaze and fill up her sight like a sponge, to make up for all the time you were apart, and eager to see her but couldn’t. So I was filling up the same way, and I think that was a little seed.


The real idea came when I was working for the United Nations as a film and television consultant, and I was shuttling between Jerusalem and Ramallah. There were huge olive groves along the road, about 10,000 trees. I would stop and look at them, just stop and look like I loo at people. For me, each tree was its own personality, body language, the way she expresses herself, the shape of the tree, the shape of the trunk, which is everything like a person. There is the Ralph Lauren tree, the Gap tree, there’s the Ross Dress For Less tree. They all have their own uniqueness, based on how much water and light they get, they adjust

to the nature of the world. And I watched them. I spent some time. I always longed to make a film about olives, but never had the time. Well, one time I was on the road, and a strong presence came at me saying, “Shame on you Hanna.” I looked around, and saw nobody, just the trees. I heard again, “Why did you leave? What did we do to you?” And I felt a little scared of that strong voice at first, but then I had a little dialogue with it. I said, “I didn’t leave, I just went to study, to find my own sense of expression.” Then the voice said, “Why have you neglected us?” I said, “I didn’t neglect you, I was suffocating here, with the conflict.” And then the conversation ended.


After a few weeks, I was working in downtown Jerusalem, and an image popped into my head. It was two brothers fighting for the favor of a woman. I remember the date, it was November 14, the end of the olive harvest in Palestine. And November 19, I started shooting. I started writing, building and building as much as I could.


TCV: You started shooting on the 19th? How did you mobilize so quickly?


HE: Cell phones! You just call everybody. As simple as that. “Who do you recommend?”

“Who can do that?” I had nothing to do except make phone calls. I stopped working, and I said, “I’m making a film, leave me alone, everybody.”


TCV: Using digital must have been helpful.


HE: Yes, very fast. I couldn’t do it on 35mm, because my actors were not professionals, and we didn’t really have a script. I couldn’t really shoot. But digital is fast, efficient, good, and you can play back. You can look at the material at night, you can reshoot.


TCV: Let’s look at the performances, take the actor playing the father for instance. He’s so well balanced between his obvious love for the family and the land and his rigidity.


HE: I’m glad this came across. Well, the father is a stage actor, Muhammad Bacri. The father and the older sister are real actors. The rest have acted here and there, none professional. What I did more than writing and directing was to build trust with them. So that it felt like I knew them from before, and they know me. We’re friends. I gained their trust 100%. I told them that. I said, “Look, I don’t have a budget, I don’t have time, and I’m not going to rewrite the script, because we’re wasting time. I need 100% of your trust otherwise this will never work. Because if there is no trust, people will see it on the screen.” And they all listened. They gave me, the director, the respect I needed to do my job.


TCV: It feels like you’re creating a film culture.


HE: I’m like the way they bring babies in my society. They just bring babies and expect them to find food. I’m against that, but that’s how I’m making films. I’m not doing something unique, I’m just imitating another way of living there. It’s a “world of progress,” I call it. Nothing is finished, nothing starts with a plan, and everything is in progress. We’ve been like this for 3000 years in the Middle East – because we are not in control of our destiny. Something from outside our world come sin and tells us what to do. So we developed that urgency of the present time. In fact, all Palestinians practice Zen. We are in the moment, and we have to take advantage of the moment. We can’t plan, there’s no infrastructure for planning like here. Everything is done on the fly. Even in marriage and falling in live. A man looks at a woman in downtown Ramallah, he loves her, then he stays with her family. “Yes or no?” There’s no like three months, six months, dating and all this crap [laughter]. Based on that moment. The detail is another story. The reality reflects that urgency. In the balance, it’s two sides of the coin.


TCV: Now that you mention it, romance is presented in the film in a formal, traditional fashion. Yet, a lot of they poetry and lyrics are about romance and passion. Can you tell me about that apparent contradiction?


HE: I think it’s also again the other side of the rule. In a very harsh society, you find the kindest thing in the world. America is flat, because everything is available. People don’t fight with their nails to get every little thing. You go to the store, you have ten types of washing machines. In the Middle East, everything is six months of headache to get the washing machine. In the Middle East, everything is a struggle, and when you have a struggle, the human spirit is on the surface, it’s alive, it’s dominant, and it’s acting. You know the dichotomy of opposites? Where there’s passion, there’s hatred? In the Middle East, there is access to that duality. Where there’s harshness, and nothing is allowed, poetry has to be the water that goes through the crack to make sense of how the harshness can have a beauty.


And this is not a criticism so much as that is what it is, and we need to address it as it is. That’s how our society is. We come from a desert, everything is scarce, you have to put rules on everything. If everybody falls in love with everybody and has sex and gets pregnant, you can’t feel everybody, so you have these strict rules. One of the rules is that there is no sexuality before marriage, you have to wait for it, you have to earn it. To the western world it looks like some orientalism crap, or exoticum exotica. But it’s not like this, it’s people who express themselves in the environment, the way the industrial world expresses sexuality to relieve the pressure of the individual. It’s not really an expression of love. If an American man writes poetry to his wife every day, this is romance. But, “Hi, (kiss, kiss) honey, I gotta pick up your letter,” “Okay, watch your tie (kiss, kiss),” that’s not love, that’s a friendship! [Laughter]


That’s not to diminish the American relationship between man and woman, there’s no better and worse. The thing is, everybody in their environment is great. It is really grand if you accept others as they are when they are different from you. And enjoy those differences, and explore why they are like that. It doesn’t matter if you are in the industrial world or the most primitive place in the desert, writing poetry for a woman is something very hip! Or for your lover, it doesn’t have to be a woman. And I don’t mean through the internet! [Laughter]. Quickly between breaks, sending through the e-mail, doesn’t count. Poetry is taking a step backward, closing the whole world, and let the intimacy of your queen come inside you, and make a statement about her that you long for.


By the way, talking about how to treat your partner, actors are like that. They way you move, the way you treat them, they mimic back that treatment to you. I really build trust with them, I gave them love and attention to each one individually. The father was really difficult to deal with, I had ten times patience with him, friendship and understanding. And the older brother, who never acted before, loves to drink and have fun at night. So every night, I took him to have fun. That he really knows I accommodated him so he should accommodate me. All this counts. The actress loved strawberries. So I looked for strawberries everywhere, so she could have them. Because you know, actresses don’t eat. [Laughter]. So I always paid attention that she had strawberries, and also little vegetables to nibble. It’s so funny how actresses around the world are the same.


TCV: In the film, there are many elements of cross-cultural universality. For example, there’s the daughter that leaves a rural home for a life in the city, and gets ostracized for it. This seems to match up to your won story a bit.


HE: Yes, that’s true. Directors don’t become the prototypes for their characters by accident. In the beginning, the prototype of the older sister was a strong as the younger sister. But then I made the older sister a little bit in the shadow, otherwise that would overwhelm the them of the film. I kind of gave her the best I can, with the limitation that she doesn’t overpower the film. It’s such a great subplot, and it has two folds. The first fold is that she not only represents female, but also human longing to be different from where you came from and what you do. And I think the success of the film and me as a director is that men and I feel like this. But the challenge also to let them the community that you departed from know that you still love them, and they are still great. Life is bigger than what it seems. And when you go back, give them the sense that it is the best place you’ve ever seen.


Always, with my interviews, with the Arab papers, I mention my village, Jish. I insist, they promise, and they do it. I always say I’m proud of my village. People in my village cut the articles and put it in a photo album, so that when I visit, they show me, “Here’s out name!” And in my films, I always put in the credit, “Special thanks to the people of my village.” So for them, I am resolving it. I don’t think it should be a conflict. It should be tat you go, and they let you go. Like when the chicks are big, they fly away – it’s natural. It’s a process we have to accept and embrace. But when people compare anything, you make a judgment, you win the battle, but you lose the war. And the idea is to win the war, and to help the human spirit to express itself. Even when you’re having a feeling of weakness or loss, it’s good to embrace those qualities in us too. Not only when we are successful, and we’re in a good mood.


My grandmother told me, “If you leave, I will die in a few months.” And I left, and she died after a few months. But I embraced that, because I told her, “I am dying here, do you want me to here?” She said, “No, I want you to leave.” But that doesn’t change anything. See, that’s what a good conflict is. And she actually died. She cried, I remember the scene. I went to say goodbye, and said, “I am leaving.” And she knows because, four years in Jerusalem, and studying in the Hebrew University, I suffered every day. I came home, and I was depressed. She said, “What’s the matter?” I said, “I’m not happy.”


Every fucking week, everybody is in conflict. And I’m not a bad guy. I’m a nice guy. But the situation there is framing you. And I couldn’t do it anymore, I was not breathing well. I was getting sick physically. And the Jewish doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me. There was pain in my legs, but no cause. Finally they sent for a doctor from South Africa. When I came in, he said. “What’s your name?” I said, “Hanna Elias” He said, “You’re Arab.” I said, “Yes.” He read the file and said, “You have nothing physical.” I said, “How do you know?” He said, “Because you are Arab, and I am from South Africa, I understand the effects of prejudice. What you are going through in your village.” Immediately, he threw out all the medical explanations. I was blown away. I said, “Can I go home then?” He said, “Yes of course, it’s going to be okay.” And the next day I was fine.


So in coming back home, my grandmother said, “You’ve lost some hair.” And my mother didn’t see that. My mother! She hugged me, kissed me, and she couldn’t tell I had lost hair. I was the only one who knows I lost some hair. Not much, just a few hairs, a few more than usual. I was shocked. My grandmother, she knew me. Because I was my grandmother, she was me. We loved each other. And I said to her, “I can’t stay.” And when I left, she was weeping. I told her, “I love you but I can’t.” My love for my life, was more important than to accommodate my grandmother. And that’s painful.


But what is that, compared to people in the Holocaust? Seeing your loved ones walking to a place to be burned. I’m not saying I have this pain, but you know the human spirit endures. You have to understand and respect others. There should be a window for forgiveness. I’m back because she saw my film, and the way I am happy now.


TCV: It seems like one of the most difficult situations, when you feel it in your bones that you have to leave, and yet everyone in the community asks you to stay.


HE: Oh not only that, I remember I said, “I can’t leave without your blessing,” She was weeping when she said, “I bless you.” That’s my grandmother. My grandfather, he died not because of a man, but because of a tree. My cousin built a new house and he had to uproot the trees, and they were my grandfather’s trees, He knew they were going to be uprooted, but still he went to say goodbye to the trees in the village. Inside the village too we had groves, you grow them everywhere you can. So when he got to the construction sire, he was three olive trees on their side. He grasped at his chest, and said to my brother, who witnessed that, “Take me to the hospital.” He took him to the hospital, but along the way, my grandfather said, “The olive trees, I knew them, I raised them, I know what they did every year.” It was like he was talking about three children. And my brother said, “Don’t worry grandpa, it will be fine.” He said, “No, this is it.” And he died.


So you can tell Jews, or settlers, or Israelis what the groves or a single tree means to a Palestinian? See, of they see that, they will reevaluate their policy. They will think differently. It’s like for me, I’m a Palestinian, one section of Jewish is somebody uprooting the olive groves. I need to understand that. I need to sympathize. I need to stand tall as a human being and be sure that his will never be repeated. And I stand strong with that. That Jews, being persecuted for being Jewish, anti-Semitism, anybody who talks to me with anti-Semitism thinking that because I’m a Palestinian they’re supporting me, I stand tall, like a cypress tree, and tell them that I don’t accept that. I think that this is the healing process for all of us.





TCV: Understanding where the other side is coming from, as a means to make peace, is a theme in Israeli films too. At the festival this year, there is one called My Terrorist, and also prior to that there was the Promises project.


HE: I know the director, I sponsored and event for him in LA. I like B.Z. [B.Z. Goldberg, who along with Justine Shapiro and Carlos Bolado, co-directed Promises—ed.] very much. He’s a man of integrity, which is very important. I am happy he’s in Jerusalem now.


If you understand people’s pain, then you have to have to take it and integrate it into your own world. See, it takes a year. It’s not something that you can take a pill and do it. Being a Palestinian oppressed by Israelis, I could not embrace what the Holocaust, and how the Jews were treated. But it is not my notion to say, “Yea, yeah, look what the Nazis did to the Jews, that’s what the Israelis are doing to us.” I think that’s bullshit. I think it’s a cheap argument to satisfy people who think they know everything about right and wrong. That’s not the mode I need to be in. I need to understand the Holocaust as a human experience, where it showed the darkest side of prejudice, the way the Germans expressed toward the Jews. That kind of discrimination should not exit anywhere. But we’ve seen it with the Native Americans, and other minorities around the world.


We need to cultivate the new generations not to accept something like that. Not to believe in something like that. To enroll they youth to be exposed to communication, dialogue, and mutual respect and understanding the differences, and the notion that the differences aren’t much –that’s big. Then it’s easy to apply the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Then it’s easy to apply for the blacks and whites in South Africa. It’s easy for South America. It’s easy everywhere.


But the most difficult situation, if you ask me, is India and Pakistan. I’m terrified, because these guys could be crazy with nuclear power. What are you going to do if they throw a couple of bombs, and the clouds carry it to another continent? What are they going to say, “I’m sorry?” You can’t send that through the internet – “I’m sorry” to the people, the families, and their crops that are destroyed. That’s where the integrity of all of us as a human community has to take effect. That’s where I belong, that’s where I live, and that’s where I stand. Not on who’s right and who’s wrong, but how they will be as leaders. We must teach them to be visionary people, people of peace, and then they will exercise that.


I share more with Jews, than with any other nation, because I am Palestinian. Because we both had pain inflicted on us. It doesn’t matter even that it’s the Israelis who inflicted it on us, it’s only important that somebody inflicted that pain. It’s not important who the source is. What’s important is that what you do with that pain. You have to take it and look at it objectively from more than one angle. And if you look at it from only one angle, you win the battle, but lose the war. All these sympathizers around the planet are saying, “Oh those poor Palestinians,” whether it’s a French accent, or German accent, or South American accent. But that’s not the point. The point is what can you do with that pain to change it – so that others will listen that it must not be repeated and not to be exercised.




That’s the challenge of cinema, that’s the challenge of people who use the pen, that’s the challenge of the engineers who are the amazing artists of the world, who invent tape recorders, who invent the telephone, who invent the internet, who invent the technology to blow up images from digital to make films. Those artists have to have expression how can we change that pain to make something that help is, not hinder us, not hinder us, not separate us. Because the pain, in our human experience, is something we share – it’s something we all go through. And part pf the reason for it is the violence that we inherit without knowing. The most apparent pain in my opinion that has been expressed but not dealt with even today is the pain of women. The way we treat women, the way we utilize women, and they way we oppress them. The second pain we have not addressed is the pain of the environment—the flora and fauma around us, the way we rape it, and cause pain for it. These two things are where the human psychic pain resides. That’s were there’s the abyss. That’s where we need to put flashlights. That dark area exposed and treated.


TCV: How receptive was the Israeli crew to the script’s showing of the encroaching settlements?


HE: In the beginning, a couple of them really hated it. They thought it was propaganda. Some of the film crew didn’t know I speak Hebrew as well as I speak Arabic, very well. So they argued with each other, and I didn’t want to seem like I’m eavesdropping, si I walked away. But I remembered snippets. One said, “We’re helping Palestinians to weaken our own cause,” bickering with each other. So I went back and said, “Look, I know Hebrew, and I hear you, and that’s now what this is about.” And I went into a course of dialogue with them, because I proved to them what I was doing, I gained their trust, it’s all about gaining trust. So I dissipated that feeling. Fear is like nails, the more you hammer it down, the more it sticks in the wood. The gentler you are, the easier they are. So when they hammer the nails, I work the other way. So we worked, and they trusted me, they believed me. And the people who support settlements in the beginning, changed their minds over the course of making the film, and we became good friends. Genuine. In fact one of them came to me and she said, “I can’t believe I supported those morons.” I had fear, but when I listened to her, I listened from the human plateau, not judging, not saying anything. Because I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I only give support and love. Because that’s how you build trust, that’s how you build bridges.


It’s very simple. We are in the business of building bridges. Some people destroy, we build. We’ve had material for at least 2,000 years. One big contractor called Jesus, another contractor called Buddha. The most recent food contractors were Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. The last one on the block is Mandela he opened a new shop were you can buy building supplies—and there’s even a good shop in the US run by Jimmy Carter—and contractors who don’t build very well, like Arafat and Perez, and they don’t have suck good plans. But it’s okay, not all contractors are good. But these warehouses are available, and you can go anytime and get your lumber, get your cement, get whatever material you need to build your own import material that doesn’t belong in the neighborhood.




So the language I speak with Israeli and Palestinians, it’s a language they understand. When I say pre-arranged marriage in my society is beautiful, it’s because marrying two families together is good. I’m not against that, but I’m against women forced into marriage. So women should also have the same rights, that’s what I mean that you have to design within the same community.


TCV: It was very clear in the film that you wanted to empower the women, and give the, choices while leaving the men limited.


HE: It’s fine with me that a man can choose four women [as allowed under Islamic law—ed.], but them women should have the possibility to choose from four men. That’s equality, but even more, that’s common sense. I respect the background, my culture, and the traditions of my people, but today’s world is different from past. And we can’t keep living in the past, and taking out power from the past. The past is a place just for storage. It is merely that. The present interaction between ourselves and the world around us dictate the new behavior we have. You cannot have intimacy with four, five, six people. Intimacy is built with one person. It’s hard enough to be intimate by yourself, let alone with someone else. So how can you build intimacy with four people? So we’re talking about practicality not theology, not religion.


We’re talking about daily issues that mothers deal with, to clean, to talk, to nourish, both metaphorically and physically. How can you do all these things? It’s impossible. Things need to be questioned and evaluated, and you have to make a healthy decision that positively influences the other side, the women’s side, and the whole community. Why am I saying that? Because the people in charge of us growing up are women. How is it done? By milking, which is next to the heart, and holding which is next to the heart. So if that mother’s heart is not happy, if that heart is not supported, if that heart is not nourished with love and attention, how can love be infused to that bay? If the woman is depressed, oppressed, or melancholy, everybody in the world will be melancholy. I think that’s why we have so much violence in the world, because the women are not treated equally, and they are not treated well. So they pass it to the next generation. That is the crux of conflict among humans—we must get a closure on it.


If children are exposed to violence, that’s where it begins. When Saddam Hussein was a child, he had to sell cigarettes on the street. However, he had to charge more than the cost, but it was till more than what people wanted to pay—so people would slap him. So Saddam learned to behave in a violent environment. That’s the problem with Saddam, where he began. I’m not surprised that he met people like George Bush. Just look, they have the entire planet between them, and they find each other. The challenge of the Bushes, father and son, as leaders of a great republic, is to create an international forum lead by the UN where the Iraqi people get support to rise and clean the mess in their home. Rather than the mess we have now, where the Iraqis are reaffirmed with their beliefs that only through another color of violence can you solve problems. It should not be what whoever has the bigger guns has the “better solution”! If Washington D.C. had 60% of they key government positions held by women, this would have never happened. Seriously.



Our responsibility is to help get past violence and anger. For Palestine to become more Israeli, and for Israel to become more Palestinian. Just look at Arafat, he is a dumpster of hatred. How can you expect him to operate like this? All this makes it impossible for him to do anything. If you have perspective, you can understand how Arafat is demented, and how Sharon is demented. That’s the message of the art—it’s to bring human experience to a new plateau.


The pain is like an airplane. We have the airplanes, but we have no way to get them off the ground, we don’t have airports. These airports would be like the infrastructure, where people physically meet, and look in each others’ eyes, and say, “I understand your pain.” If a Palestinian goes to a Jew and says, “I understand your pain,” or vice versa, you don’t have to do anymore. All it takes is a human looking at the other person’s eye saying something human. Because out humanity is the highest form in all of us, and this is the way to access it. It is like the metaphor of internet—it’s free, all you have to do is log in. It doesn’t cost you anything. But people don’t like it, they think there must be a scam underneath it.


TCV: Are you working on a new project?


HE: There’s one little project I’m doing, which is a documentary. I don’t count it as a major project, I just have to do it. After finishing my film, everyone told me I was going to go into depression. I don’t want to go into a depression, I’ve been there, don’t that. I don’t want to do it again. I want to hit the ground running. The project is with an east coast company. They want me to make a documentary about three couples—a Christian couple, Muslim couple, and a Jewish couple, from Israel proper. It’s about what it means to fall in love for them. They really didn’t know what they wanted exactly, so we worked together with a feeling that I thought would very interesting: how individuals move from saying “I” to saying we”. See, when you get engaged, you can’t say, “I’m going to buy a car, I’m going to move to a new house.” They say, “We’re going to move to a new house, we’re going to buy a car, we’re going to buy flowers.” To move from “I” to “we” I think is fascinating, and in the background of a Jewish “we,” a Muslim “we,” the color, the food, the family structure, the symmetries, the pain, maybe it will turn out as nice as a film to share with the world, to overcome all this crap we’re in.

As for my next feature film, the executive producer of Minority Report, his name is Gary Goldman, who was at the screening, he would like to make any film I would like about the Middle East. I told him I read something about a highly religious Arab guy from Hebron who falls in love with a teenaged settler girl from the settlement next door to him. And the Hammas and settler—they are so close, they are so familiar, so I’m going to show how similar they are. And actually in the paper, they ran away to Tiberius, that’s where Jesus walked on the water, and the Israeli police was all over, patrolling the block, and finally they walked them in the ghetto—I don’t know what’s happened since. But the film will be like Romero and Juliet.


TCV: Well, our time has been up for a while, so I’ll let you get on with your schedule. It’s been a pleasure talking with you!


HE: Thank you, I’ve really appreciated our conversation.