Israeli filmmaker Juliano Mer Khamis presents the humanity of Jenin in an original perspective
In a fascinating interview, Juliano Mer Khamis presents his film “Arna’s Children” and gives some background into what it is like for the son of an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man to experience first-hand the effects of the occupation and the destruction of Jenin and the human spiritual carnage that came of it.
Ha’aretz: The very fact of the existence of the film and Israel’s willingness to show it prove that Israel is indeed a democracy, which allows the production of a film of this sort with money from a foundation that is funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture.
Mer Khamis: They’re right. It was clear to me while I was making the film that this is what was going to happen – that they would use me as a fig leaf for Israeli democracy – but I couldn’t prevent it.
–He believes that the “bear hug,” as he calls it, that his film is getting from the Israeli establishment, which wants to exploit it for its own needs (he says that thus far, he has refused every such proposal), derives from the way he has presented the character of his mother.–
Mer Khamis: If I have one big regret concerning the film, and I hope that my mother will forgive me, it is that I didn’t detach her character, as it is presented in the film, from the Jewish-Zionist-Israeli context. She detached herself from this context as a political individual. She turned her back on it and came out against it. She wasn’t opposed only to the occupation; she was also opposed to what she called `Zionist colonialism.’ She struggled for a secular democratic state for all its citizens. She detached herself from the Israeli camp and joined the intifada in Jenin. In Israeli society she was considered a traitor.
While I was making the film I went through a process that I wouldn’t call going back to my Arab side, but rather a change in the cultural, ethnic and national emphases within me. If it used to be that my involvement in everything that has to do with language – doing things and communicating with people – was more on the Jewish side, today it’s just the opposite. I am detached from the Jewish-Israeli side and I am finding new ground for existence as a political individual and as a creative individual. In recent years I have moved within Jewish society like an alien being at levels that I could no longer bear. This was so difficult that I could not go on stage any more and appear before an Israeli audience. The stage means love, the audience is to love, and I am incapable of doing that at the moment. I know that this is temporary, I know what the reasons for this are, but that’s how it is right now and in the meantime what I intend to do is to continue to make films – insofar as it will be possible for me to make them, insofar as they will let me make them.