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Filming the Love Hate State of Home

It’s official. I can tell you. Rami Alayan’s Love, Theft and Other Entanglements is making its California debut here in the Bay Area. The Arab Film Festival brings it to us for two screenings, one in San Francisco on October 18 and the other in Berkeley on October 25th (with another screening in Los Angeles on November 15). Rami and his brother will be taking questions after the San Francisco show. After interviewing Rami this summer (here), I couldn’t wait to see it for myself. Now I can. Here’s the second part of our interview from July:

Why do an independent film about Palestine?

We didn’t need to do a European co-production for this film. Independent productions happen all the time there, for documentaries, but not for features. There’s something to be said for independent, do-it-yourself film making. It’s been done in America, Asia, Europe, why not Palestine? What’s true in Palestine, and it is true in other places, as much as people want to make a film, they have day jobs that pay the bills. There’s not enough financial support, so independent worked.

What were some production challenges particular to Palestine and Israel?

The only permissions we needed were from the Palestinian Authority for firearms which we needed as props. The West Bank is divided into zones A, B, C. Area C is full Israeli controlled both civilian and military administration.  We had a scene or two that were in Area C just outside the borders of the Palestinian Authority and nobody knew this until the day before the shoot. So, in those places we used toy guns.  We bought them in Jerusalem. But what was funny is that a couple of times we were crossing the checkpoints and I forgot that I had the toy guns in my backpack! And you always remember this while you’re lined up in the car. I turned to my brother and said the guns are in my backpack. We got lucky and they didn’t search it. I don’t know, maybe the worst thing that could happen is that they would stop the production.

It was 19 days of shooting and with breaks, it was 24 days in total. We had to stop a couple of times because of the crossing. We shot a few scenes in Jerusalem, but mostly in the West Bank.  For those days (Jerusalem shoots), we basically waited for Easter, because during Easter the Israeli Army gives permits to Palestinian Christians, not all, but some, to pass through to go to the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem.

It’s never to everybody and it’s never to the same people every time, so it was a gamble we had to take.  The main actor, the sound guy and line producer were Christian, and it was kind of intentional in hopes that they could get their Easter permits to cross into Jerusalem.  In fact, the whole production was scheduled around Easter, we shot in April for that reason. We had to reschedule the Jerusalem scenes a few times until everyone got their permits. My brother and I are from Jerusalem, so we didn’t have this issue.

Any surprise reactions?

That everyone loved it was a surprise. We first screened it in Berlin at the Berlin Film Festival. The Palestinians there loved it, Israelis loved it, there were quite a few Jewish Americans in the audience, who loved it, too. And Germans.  From a political view it’s very much a Palestinian film, but people liked it for different reasons. I think maybe because we didn’t create any “bad” characters; the Israeli bad flat character, nor the Palestinian “good” flat character.

What did you hope viewers took away?

Really, the absurdity of the situation. It’s very hopeless, but still hope. Even though he lives in a world where principles are essentially lost, he at surface is someone with no principles (he steals, etc.), but we see there is a core that people can still tap.

This interview was conducted prior to events occurring now in Jerusalem.


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