Jasmin and Assi are newlyweds, but building a life together seems impossible: She’s an Israeli, he’s a Palestinian. When their homelands turn their backs on them, they choose to live in exile. This tender tale of a love infiltrated by politics follows a real-life Romeo and Juliet on their odyssey from the Middle East through an inhospitable Europe. As their hopes rise and then fade with each bureaucratic hurdle, will their love survive? [Synopsis courtesy of the Tribeca Film Festival]
“Love During Wartime”
World Documentary Competition
Primary Cast: Jasmin Avissar, Osama Zatar, Nassar Abu Karsh, Menachem Avissar, Rana Hijaji, Miriam Avissar
Director(s): Gabriella Bier
Producer(s): Tobias Janson, Jenny Örnborn
Editor: Dominika Daubenbüchel, Thomas Lagerman
Director of Photography: Albin Biblom
Composer: El Perro Del Mar
Co-Producer: Louise Køster, Tanja Meding
Sound Design: Nicolai Linck
[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the Tribeca Narrative, Documentary and Viewpoints sections to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival. To prompt the discussion, indieWIRE asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]
Responses courtesy of “Love During Wartime” director Gabriella Bier.
I was 16, attending a screening for students of “Roma Citta Aperta,” by Roberto Rosselini. I could not stop crying and was deeply embarrassed. It was weird that a black and white movie portraying courage, war and injustice spoke to me. What surprised me was that none of my school mates shared my emotional response. At that moment I decided to become a medical doctor. I wanted to save the world. As it turned out, I never went to medical school but instead studied journalism and traveled to West and East Africa for years. I eventually studied documentary filmmaking at the National College of Film and Theatre in Stockholm. I love the entire process and to me, shooting is the best!
My feelings never changed about wanting to make a difference in the world. I just choose a different medium than I originally intended.
Why this subject matter?
Rage. It was the beginning of the Second Intifada in 2001. I was surrounded by people from the left and by people from my own Jewish background. The two groups totally dismissed the efforts made by anyone whose aim was to bring peace to the region. Both groups said; ”Ah, that’s how they are, the Arabs/Jews/Palestinians/Israelis, what can you expect from people like that?” They ridiculed every effort made towards reconciliation. That attitude prompted me to act.
I strongly felt that until then, all the wars, conflicts, hates and fear had changed nothing in the region. So many films have been made about the Wall, about the West Bank and the conflict. I wanted to do something else. My idea was to make a love story. I myself live in a mixed marriage and, although my experience was not even close to the struggles Jasmin and Osama are going through, I felt I had some kind of insight.
Working with a language barrier…
I conducted very few interviews during the shooting. I either initiated a situation or just followed what they were doing, but I always had a direction. The fact that my Hebrew is extremely poor, and that I speak no Arabic, was a challenge. I decided not to use an interpreter. Thanks to Osama and Jasmin, who were both open and generous, I managed to shoot situations where I hardly understood anything. I would get a sense that it was a good scene, just from the atmosphere, the tone of voice of the protagonists and how people looked at each other. Strangely enough that was the best footage I ever captured. Maybe because if I understood what they really said, I might have interrupted, asked questions and so disturbed the magic of reality.
I myself was the biggest challenge. My idea came out of the naive ambition to make a peace movie that proves “love conquers all.” I was totally unprepared for how much I was going to be challenged.
The difficulties appeared when I was forced to deal with an Israel very different from the Land of Milk and Honey I grew up with. I was totally unprepared for how difficult it would be for me to understand this on an emotional level. It took me years to digest. I had to totally rebuild the narrative of my childhood and draw my own map. But nevertheless, my feelings towards this region are very strong. I really love to be there visiting friends. And of course, I have relatives in Israel, and so it has always been a very important place where I feel very much at home.
Difficult areas to film…
I am always asked if it was difficult to film in Israel and Palestine. My answer is no. People were always helpful, in both countries. What did surprise me, though, was how difficult and nearly impossible it was to shoot in Germany. The immigration authorities always said no. We wanted to shoot in a museum but they did not even bother to answer our request.
I’ve just finished writing a book about my emotional struggle during the making of “Love During Wartime” as part of a research project at the University College of Film in Stockholm. Later this spring, I will start filming a documentary about how nationalism affects relationships between family and friends in Sweden and Denmark. I’ve also just started doing research for a film about fundamentalism and its fallout around the world, using a very personal perspective.