Q: Renen Schorr described The Triangle Project in which you participated as ‘a rich and extraordinarily educational cultural experience.’ Do you consider this a typical example of the use of film as a tool for cultural diplomacy, or an exceptional example?
A: It is always an issue that when you make films, they are financed by certain sources, which may have their own agendas. For me, the situation was perfect because the dialogue was taken from my own personal life. Last year, I began developing the second part to this film with an institution called ‘Greenhouse’, which is funded by the European Union, and brings together documentarians from the Middle East. We would meet in Turkey, and everyone involved was there developing their own projects. Very often, there is some kind of project that helps finance culture, but as a filmmaker, my interest is a bit different. I am all for dialogue, but it is not my main interest.
Q: Last year, the director, Mike Leigh, was publicly criticized for cancelling a planned trip to teach at the Sam Spiegel film school. Given that he justified his choice on political grounds, to what degree do you think the film industry is constricted by choices made on a political rather than a creative basis?
A: I think it’s a decision that every artist has to make for themselves. I think that it is their decision, and I respect it. I think perhaps one problem is that there is a general trend to make populist statements. Israel does do bad things sometimes, but I think that making such a statement reflects a very shallow view. I think what Mike Leigh did miss is the opportunity to speak with those in Israel who have a different opinion, and to empower them, rather than weaken them. But I still respect his choice, though I don’t know if I would make that choice myself.
Q: It has been suggested that has been bias in the past on certain judging panels against the work of students from the Sam Spiegel School, and some of Renen Schorr’s films have been criticized as irrelevant or controversial. To what degree do you think the personal experiences or political preconceptions of certain audiences can affect the ability of film to be used as a neutral medium of international dialogue?
A: I don’t think it is really neutral. First of all, the fact that everyone has an opinion on the Sam Spiegel School and their films is important, but I think it is irrelevant. Many incredibly talented people are studying at the Sam Spiegel School, and are telling their own stories. Furthermore, many irrelevant things that are often taken into consideration on judging panels at film festivals, and that is the world we work in. If you in fact look at the individual films themselves, I don’t think they necessarily represent the Sam Spiegel School or Israel. I don’t really think about these things, as it’s hard enough to make films that are loyal to your own vision and standards before considering the views and concerns of others.
Q: Do you think film has any role in solving the Israel-Palestine conflict?
A: I think the only thing art in general can do is encourage a complex view of the world. When you look at relations between people, whether it is a couple in the kitchen, or two conflicting countries, a complex view of the world is all we can really encourage as artists. Once you have this, it is much more difficult to be prejudiced, as you begin to question your existing opinions and the notion of ‘us versus them’. It is only a start though – before being filmmakers, we have to be socially-responsible citizens, and this is where action happens.