Interview Hany Abu-Assad

New Creative Impetus for the Palestinian Film

Palestinian cinema was showcased at the last film festival in Cannes with two productions at once. One of these was "Rana's Wedding" – an extremely poetic film. Amin Farzanefar interviewed the film's director Hany Abu-Assad

Clara Khoury in "Rana´s Wedding"

​​"Rana's Wedding" is less severe than Elia Suleiman's burlesque film "Divine Intervention", instead coming across as a romantic and incredibly witty screen gem. Rana has to meet a 4 p.m. deadline to find and marry her clandestine boyfriend Khalil, as well as locating a registrar and witnesses to perform the ceremony.

Otherwise, she has to leave the country with her father – or marry one of the worthy suitors on his wish list. The protagonist's rebellious race through the streets of Jerusalem and Ramallah shows the country in all its beauty, without sparing the viewers the horrors of the occupation. With its pace, deadline, and love story, Hany Abu-Assad's film recalls the German hit "Run Lola Run".

The people in Palestine can't even see your films, as there are hardly any cinemas…

Hany Abu-Assad: When we have shown Palestinians the film, they really enjoyed it, because suddenly they saw one of their own as the hero of a movie and their everyday surroundings were part of a film backdrop. This was an important experience for them.

Rana is strong and she knows what she wants. She constantly gets tangled up in situations, yet remains on track. Is she representative of today's Palestinian women?

Abu-Assad: I certainly hope so! I have to admit that she isn't what you might call your average Palestinian girl, but she also isn't just totally invented. The occupation has led Palestinian women to develop an enormous awareness of their political and social situation. We have a

Abu-Assad: This has little to do with the country where it is shown. Sometimes the film is well received. Then, once again, everyone focuses on to other, more important works and you are pushed off to the side. I find it good to sometimes be in the middle of all the bustle and then to return to this dog's life in Palestine. I mean, after three days in Cannes, having to wait in line at the checkpoint like everyone else is a good experience.

Has the film already been shown in Israel?

Abu-Assad: Yes, it is currently running in the film festival in Haifa. I believe that the vast majority of the Israeli population is largely ignorant of our situation, otherwise they would have to see themselves as oppressors. They don't take any notice of Palestinians – our culture and our films are just invisible for them. There are, however, also a lot of open-minded people, who are truly good friends of mine. But that isn't the point. The point is that they are not representative of a society that refuses to accept us as equal partners having mutual respect for the needs, wishes, and visions of the other.

Last year saw two Palestinian films being shown at Cannes. How do you assess this development?

Abu-Assad: We have a great need to express and to represent. When people lose their land and dignity, they develop a sense of frustration. In Palestine, a lot of this frustration is vented in the wrong way. Others express it in art, cinema, pictures, and paintings.

The interaction between cinema and politics seems to be quite intense. Was there a time when you or other filmmakers thought of abandoning politics to focus more on private or cultural subjects – to concentrate on more "normal" topics?

Abu-Assad: When you look carefully, you will see that all of our films deal with the private sphere and "everyday life", but this "everyday life" is determined by the occupation, which can't simply be overlooked. However, in our films this remains in the background. We don't emphasize it. Yet, in order to truly portray our living conditions, we can't just ignore this discrimination and merely show characters that are bored with life.

Interview: Amin Farzanefar

© 2003

Translation from German: John Bergeron

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