FRANKFURT: U.S.-Lebanese filmmaker Ziad Doueiri told the Frankfurt Book Fair Friday that he was willing to flout Lebanon's laws against entering Israel and face imprisonment to film in the Zionist state.
Describing the production there as a "crazy trip,” he told an international audience that it still bothered him that the movie, released this year, had been banned in the Arab world.
Adapted from a novel by Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra, the movie tells the story of an ambitious ’48 Palestinian doctor who is shocked one day to learn that his wife, a Palestinian Christian, has carried out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.
Doueiri claimed the project had faced artistic, financial, legal and political challenges from the get-go, including objections to its portrayal of Israel by its main financers from Qatar and Egypt after the film's completion.
After a 2012 North American festival screening, the Doha Film Institute team had asked for its name to be removed from the movie's credits. When asked why, Doueiri recalled, they replied "because you are showing the Jewish point of view.”
Its Egyptian producer later did the same, he said.
Lebanon and the 22-member Arab League later banned the film "simply because I hired, I worked with Israeli Jews,” said the Beirut-born Doueiri, stressing that his movie had to be shot where the story was set.
"The film had been sold everywhere except in the Arab world, which, unfortunately, bothered me a lot, and I am still thinking about it constantly," said the filmmaker, who cut his teeth working as a camera operator on such Quentin Tarantino movies such as "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction.”
"All we care about,” he continued, “is telling the story."
The film was well received at a number of festivals including in Morocco and Dubai, albeit not without controversy, and in April it received three awards at Hollywood’s COLCOA French film festival.
Doueiri said his mother (a lawyer) had warned him that for a Lebanese "the sentence of setting foot in Israel is three to five years in jail and hard labour ... It's not a simple misdemeanour. It's not like going through a red light. This is a very serious thing.
"Of course I was willing to risk it,” he went on to tell the book fair panel, devoted to storytelling. “I didn't care. I thought I had a good story ... I am not going to stop because some government is going to tell me 'you're not allowed to film'."
Born in 1963, Doueiri grew up during Lebanon's Civil War, during which the Israeli army launches a devastating invasion of Lebanon in 1981. The filmmaker said it had not been easy for him to go to Israel and work "with those people I demonised all my life.” -- AFP