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Interview Udi Aloni

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Udi Aloni, an Israeli American filmmaker, writer and visual artist presented “Junction 48″ in the Panorama of the 66th International Film Festival Berlin (Berlinale). Tom Tykwer’s company „X films“, the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation „Bayerischer Rundfunk“ and the French-German TV channel „ARTE“ were involved in the production of the movie. At the end of the festival, the Israeli-American-German co-production won the prestigious audience prize, and was applauded at the end of all four screenings.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1959, director Udi Aloni has already shown six films at the Berlinale Panorama. He is more politically active than nearly all other Israeli filmmakers and comes from a famous political family. Udi Aloni is an advisor of the US based Jewish organization „Jewish Voice for Peace“ (Kol Yehudi la-Shalom). His mother Shulamit Aloni sat in the Knesset – the Israeli parliament – for seven terms. Between 1974 and 1996, Shulamit Aloni was five times a minister in different Israeli governments.

The movie is set in al-Lud, an Israeli city near Tel Aviv where Muslims, Christians and Jews live side by side. Kareem, a young Palestinian musician, spends his days wandering aimlessly between casual office jobs and hanging out with his drug dealing mates. When a car accident kills his father and confines his mother to a wheelchair he finds refuge in the world of hip hop. At a concert his girlfriend Manar’s lyrics incite an attack from racist Jewish rappers and, in his neighbourhood, the government threatens to pull down a friend’s house. Kareem and Manar decide to use their songs to fight against the oppression of Israeli society as well as the violence that exists within their own conservative community for, dominated by a patriarchal sense of honour, this is a community that poses a threat to their bid for an independant life.
The lead role is played by Tamer Nafar, the charismatic frontman of DAM, the first Palestinian rap band. He and Israeli director Udi Adoni have joined forces to transform his personal experiences into the voice of a new generation of young Arabs. This is a voice that is full of energetic hope for equal rights and a peaceful coexistence.

The greatest strength of the film is its indescribable objectivity, which concisely presents in various scenes the entire spectrum of Palestinian problems. Udi Aloni sensitively addresses the oppression of women, which is rooted in the customs and traditions of Arab society. The film also precisely shows the attitude of the Palestinians who stay in their homeland, despite everything that they experience. One of the main characters is a Palestinian refugee who returned from Jordan to Israel, and whose house is destroyed during the film. The homeless refugee enters the non-violent resistance and occupies the ruins of his house, on whose land the authorities want to build a museum for coexistence. Storylines like this are not exaggerated, but are part of the real irony of the arbitrary discrimination carried out by the current government. On February 19 2016, the Hebrew-language newspaper Ha’aretz published a report from the village of Al-Walaja, which is in the occupied territories. The Palestinians have constructed their land so beautifully that it is has been expropriated by the occupying power and converted into a National Park: „Palestinian Villagers Tilled Their Land So Well, Israel Is Now Confiscating It From Them“. Report by Nir Hasson, Source: www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.704255

A Palestinian who was born in 1942 in Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, cried during the screening of the film at the Berlinale. He thanked Udi Aloni from the bottom of his heart for this wonderful film: „all Zionists who see this film will not be able to sleep properly because it exposes them. The film has sensed the Palestinian soul, as if the director were a true Palestinian. I am surprised that as a jewish Israeli, he was able to penetrate so deeply into our souls. “

This was possible for Udi Aloni, because he is not a „typical“ Israeli. The „typical“ Israeli is aware of the problematic aspects of the occupation, but does not openly talk about them. This is either because of patriotism or of his conviction that the occupation is correct. Udi Aloni shows this belief in the figures of the Zionist rappers.

Aloni knows the Palestinian soul so exactly, because he has been working for a long time in the occupied territories – not as an occupying soldier, but as an agent of culture and the world. Udi Aloni wrote the book „What Does a Jew want?“ about the utopia of binationality, an idea that is opposed by the right-oriented mainstream society. „Junction 48“ is Udi Aloni cinematic masterpiece, and not just for cinematographic reasons such as fast tracking shots, plausible characters and the original soundtrack. „Junction 48“ is a fiction that reflects Israel today so accurately and honestly, that no viewer can escape its rousing impact. Despite the excessive problems, „Junction 48“ is a film that moves the viewers and lifts them cheerfully from their cinema seats. It is a cinematic manifesto for binationality and co-existence. In the final song of the film, Manar, who has been imprisoned by her family, sings of her dream of a coexistence of both conflict parties.

 

Review written by an Israeli who wrote it exclusively for www.MartinLejeune.com:

Udi Aloni’s Junction 48 has left a very strong impression on me. The main characters come from a background very different to my own, and from some aspects I perceived them as antiheroes: I’m not a big fan of rap music (or is it hip-hop? is there a difference? I don’t even know), and I detest drugs (including nicotine and alcohol). And yet I found myself finding them likeable, with their human lives, with their humour, with their dilemmas, and with the terrible injustice they face constantly, and have in fact been facing their entire lives, as have their families and entire community (an ethnic group? a people? a nation? I am not sure what the right term is to refer to Palestinians, and especially to the particular sub-group of Palestinian citizens of Israel) for three generations. And with their ability to finely articulate penetrating observations about their environment – a very real one for hundreds of thousands of people, yet one which might seem surreal to people from the outside – in three languages (on the one hand Literary Arabic, the language of past Arab glory, on the other Modern Hebrew, the language of the colonialists, a new language foreign for most Israelis’ own grandparents, and of course in their own mother tongue, an urban Palestinian dialect, with many Israeli Hebrew terms mixed in, which would make it partly unintelligible for their own kin even in the ridiculously geographically close yet worlds apart West Bank).

 

Having grown up in Israel, I recognised some of the views seen in the film. If not the exact streets and buildings then others just like them. And I could understand a lot of the subtleties, the undertones. Especially when it came to the Israelis in the film: the police, the prostitutes who came to Israel from ex-soviet countries, the party-goers – who are mostly also ex-soldiers, including the sexy seductresses, the girls from the media. And yet many facets presented, namely those concerning the Arab society, are so foreign to me, as if the film was shot on the other side of the Earth, even though the setting is only a few minutes drive away from where I used to live, work and hang out. But I would never have hung out with those guys, for two very different reasons. A good one and a bad one, perhaps.

 

The good one: I’m not a clubber. I run away from loud noises and from cigarette smoke. The entire rap scene and subculture, be it the Israeli or the Arabic one, is perhaps as foreign to me as the Arab world is. The genre is not my musical cup of tea (although I have to admit I found some of the lyrics which appeared in the movie very apt, and even some parts of the music were pleasant to my ears). I call it a good reason not because I attribute some moral superiority to my tastes and lifestyle, but simply because it stems from my own individual self determination, and I believe in and respect the right of every individual to make their own choices when it comes to such personal preferences.

 

The bad reason: I am an Israeli and they are Arabs. For some Israelis that could be a reason of the ‘good’ kind, the one that has to do with their own individual choices in life. That is not the case with me (even though I do respect their right to be racists). I think there are many Israelis who would have no problem being friends with their Palestinian neighbours, but they just don’t get the opportunity. A few minutes drive away, but worlds apart. So many barriers. Some internal, like fear (which is quite possibly to some extent justified, but it seems some radical forces make very good use of it for their purposes and amplify it to ridiculous degrees – so much so that in recent months we’ve witnessed Jews executing without trial not only non-threatening Arabs, but also other Jews), and some are external, just an environment that somehow helps keep Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel two different populations, with a very thick, albeit invisible (well, quite often also visible, but often invisible, yet still very present) border separating one from the other.

 

Arabs in Israel can and do frequent Israeli pubs, cafés, clubs and brothels. But for young arabs to stand on stage and sing patriotic songs in Arabic to a young Israeli audience is surreal. I don’t know the scene and may be wrong, but to me it feels a scenario farther away from reality than making peace. And the film shows us why.

 

Ironically, the conversation (a monologue, actually) in the bathtub scene, which might seem surreal to viewers not familiar with the typical Israeli mindset, is actually painfully realistic. In it a young Israeli tells the Palestinian protagonist about an event from an acquaintance’s military service: Bored soldiers at a checkpoint decide to humiliate an elderly Palestinian man just for the fun of it, by ordering him to run a certain distance within 30 seconds (a very common drill for soldiers in basic training). When he fails they order him to try again, but he refuses to cooperate and sits down on the ground. As he refuses to stand up and obey the soldiers’ orders they threaten him, at which point his grandson tries to attack them, which leads to the grandson’s lengthy imprisonment. The guy telling the story, who insists on distinguishing between the Israeli Arabs and the ‘real’ Palestinians – the ones from the West Bank – shows a modicum of sympathy to the victims of the incident, but at the same time criticises the grandfather, blaming him for not preventing the whole thing by paying the small price of complying to the soldiers’ whims.

 

As absurd as it may sound, living in Israel I have heard countless examples of such argumentation. So many Israelis claim they want peace, and seem to really believe themselves. Only for them the definition of peace is doing whatever they feel like while the Palestinians silently accept it. And blaming the victim seems to have never been more popular than it is nowadays.

 

The film depicts a number of other absurd, surreal, or even grotesque events. They seem unreal to me, though with Israel one can never know. But the interesting thing is, that whenever I caught myself wondering whether that thing or another could possibly happen for real, I immediately came up with other, comparable or worse things, that did in fact take place: Police marking suspects for future identification by running a knife across their hand. I want to think Israeli police don’t do that. But the sad truth is, that even if they did, it wouldn’t be their worst. Demolishing a residential house of a Palestinian family in order to build a museum for Israeli-Palestinian co-existence (to which Jews could rightly say ‘Hast thou killed and also taken possession?’). That didn’t happen in reality, of course: because in reality the state of Israel did (and does) demolish houses, it just didn’t replace them with a museum for co-existence. Is it any better? True, one can argue that then it is not a killed-and-taken-possession situation, but there are plenty of those too (for a recent example see the case of the village of al-Walaja, whose lands – cultivated by the residents of the village for generations, with beautiful terraces – Israel is planning to turn into a national park, while cutting the villagers’ own access by means of the so-called ‘separation barrier’). Making a ‘present absentee’ fight for his right to his home, using the goats, whose presence in the property – as opposed to that of their human owners – has been continuous since before Israel was established, as legal argument. Wait, what?! That couldn’t possibly be how it works in real life, right? I have no idea. But I don’t think the goats are the most absurd thing in Israel’s treatment of property of ‘present absentees’ and in the ridiculous laws and regulations introduced to enable the legal usurpation of land (and just listen to the absurdity of the mere term itself). By the way, in case you were worried, eventually logic and modernity have prevailed (but not completely, just to the extent that suits Israel’s plans): the goats did not save the house.

 

It should be interesting to see what reactions the film will generate in Israel (and I mean reactions to the film itself, not to the director’s criticism of Israel’s government, a topic deserving its own, separate discussion). I can imagine it will make many Israelis uneasy, and I hope it will urge them to change the terrible reality Israel is perpetuating, and that they will not blindly defame the film, whose depiction of how Israel and Israelis treat Palestinians in general and the Palestinian citizens of Israel in particular is after all, as I’ve written above, quite realistic, and even in the instances where it shows a picture that deviates from reality, the differences merely serve an artistic purpose.

 

But the film has another side as well. Telling the human stories of life and death, poverty, escapism and love, it also deals with some of the most painful issues which disturb (and sometimes end) the lives of individuals in the Arab society, first and foremost the right (or lack thereof) of women to choose their own path in life, especially, though by no means only, in love life. The protagonist’s relationship with his girlfriend has to be kept a secret from her family, and the greatest threat to her person is not the brutal Israeli authorities, nor the Israeli youngsters who attack her in a brawl, but her own cousins – who claim they ‘love her’ and ‘do not want to have to hurt her’. Perhaps the film is trying to tell Palestinians (and, in fact, the entire Arab world) that, slightly paraphrasing a sentence of the protagonist, it’s time for them to enter the 21st century.

 

Part of the greatness of the film lies in that, that it simply presents part of the community of Israeli Arabs, a community which is hardly ever exposed on the silver screen. Ajami (2009) was considered a novelty in this direction, but Junction is much more intense in every aspect, dealing with a broader range of topics and in greater depth.

 

Junction’s secondary theme, the right of Arab women to self determination, is also the main theme of Elite Zexer’s Sand Storm. This charming film depicts – with great authenticity, they say – the life, both everyday and special rites and occasions, of Bedouins in Israel’s an-Naqab (Hebrew: Negev) desert. Even the dialect seems to be authentic, although an occasional slip discloses the actors’ urban origins. In the centre of the film are two women, mother and daughter. In many respects they are luckier than many real-world Arab women: they seem to be able to freely criticise their husband/father and to shout at him, suffering consequences only in very extreme cases, and even then these consequences do not entail physical violence (except for one push, which is nothing compared to what many Arab women in reality have to suffer). In fact, the daughter seems to be able to have a relationship with her father which would seem normal to many viewers (they spend quality time together, talk, laugh), but which in the Arab society is not to be taken for granted.

 

The film exposes the inequality between men and women mainly with everything that has to do with marriage, from polygamy to women not having the right to have a love life and to choose their own husband. But the inequality is also revealed by the subtleties, for example when the girl, who has just been talking with her dad, laughing, has to keep quiet and look down when other men approach him and talk to him. (And again, in many respects she is lucky: in reality some Arab daughters would have to keep quiet and look down also in the mere company of their own fathers.)

 

In many Arab families the fear of her husband drives the mother to forcefully object the behaviour of her daughter or daughters, leading to some form of enmity, even though they are often similar and have similar aspirations. This divide-and-conquer – which is shown in its entire ugliness in the film – helps the father rule the family, with mother and daughters busy quarrelling with each other, when in fact he is their real enemy and oppressor. The film culminates in the mother and daughter reaching some form of mutual understanding and the mother accepting the daughter’s decision to leave, in a way giving her her blessing – a scenario virtually impossible in reality, where nobody understands, let alone supports, a daughter leaving, even in cases where she has been subjected to extreme violence and everybody knows the choices (marriage) inflicted on her against her will.

 

The film ends with what appears at first look to be a compromise, but is in fact exactly what the man wanted all along, and a lose-lose for the women, none of which is happy – neither the mother nor the daughter (and not even the father’s second wife, a young girl about the same age as the daughter, who seems happy about her status in the beginning, which turns out to be a misrepresentation).

 

It is interesting to see these two films, both about Arabs in Israel, both featuring Arab actors, both made by Israelis behind the scenes (with a modicum of Arab and international cooperation in the case of Junction). I am happy to see films about Israeli Arabs, and I am happy to see the painful issue of human rights of Arab women brought to broad daylight. I don’t think it’s wrong for Israelis to make it happen, especially when they enjoy the collaboration and support of Arab society (or at least a part thereof). But I would be much happier to see Arabs initiating and advancing this discourse (which they maybe do, but I have yet to witness it).

 

„My love to Palestine and my love to Israel is the same love. Both of them look me in my eyes.“

Martin Lejeune talked to Udi Aloni at the last day of the 66th International Film Festival Berlin.

Martin Lejeune: Congratulations for winning the Audience Award of the Festival. It’s a highly regarded award because the audience is always right.

Udi Aloni: Not always, but this time.

Martin Lejeune: You are deeply respected by people arround the world because of your cooperation with Juliano Mer-Khamis who established The Freedom Theatre in Jenin and therefore was assassinated. In your movie you have actors from Jenin who were scholars of Mer-Khamis.
How could this practically happen that actors and crew members of the occupied territories, who are normally not allowed to enter Israel, could work on a Israeli tax funded set inside Israel?

Udi Aloni: The 48-Palestinians are citizens of Israel but they just have never been Union members. The Union wasn’t racist, they try to protect their members and when they met my Palestinian crew, they help them to have the full Union Rights.

Martin Lejeune: I heard after the screening, in response to a question about whether this was an Israeli film, you said that this is a Palestinian film.

Udi Aloni: Let’s be correct, I would say that it’s a co-production between Israel, Germany and the USA. The heart of the film is a Palestinian one, but it’s an Israeli- German-American film to be accurate. It’s about Palestinian citizens of Israel, so it’s also a Palestinian film. For me, my heart is with both Israel and Palestine, so all this dichotomy is not a part of my language. My love to Palestine and my love to Israel is the same love. Both of them look me in my eyes.

Martin Lejeune: The movie is described in a Berlinale program as an example of coexistence, but I would disagree with that description as the movie shows all the difficulties of coexistance.

Udi Aloni: The film itself is not an example of coexistence, but the way we made it is. It’s Palestinian and Jewish Israelis working together to tell the story of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. The harmony of the crew between Palestinians and Jews was like a performative act for coexistence, not the film itself. The film itself is what it is and not a symbol for anything. But behind the scenes, the way the film was put together, is an example of coexistence.

Martin Lejeune: The film has references to the Nakba, an Arabic term that refers to the establishment of the State of Israel. In your movie, an old man who was forced by „massacres“ – as it is written in your script – to leave to Jordan, returned illegally to Israel and find his house demolished more thany 60 years later. Did this cause trouble for you seeking for Israeli public film funding?

Udi Aloni: I got financing, so I don’t know what caused me trouble or not in that respect. I told the story of the Palestinian citizens of Israel and this is the narrative and of course that’s part of the narrative. In a way the nice thing about this film is that we don’t use those terms like Nakba. It’s a film, not a declaration. I tell the stories, how we left the home, how we came back. This film was not so much a declaration as a story-telling. I don’t want to make any political statement here. Everyone knows my politics. I don’t want to destroy the beauty of the film in this interview. The previous film of mine made clear declarations. This time I chose fiction because I wanted to tell a story without such big declarations, which have to come from within the story, to arise emotionally. This man doesn’t say the word „Nakba“. He talks about how he left and how the goats stayed in his home and when he came back those goats were proof of his connection to this place. I think this is much more beautiful than doing a big declaration. It’s the story of young people who don’t want to remember anything. They’re almost forced to remember their history. They don’t even want to deal with all these issues. They want to be normal, to love and sing. And the idea of the return of the repressed comes to them because their ’no-exit’ situation. So what I am trying to get across in interviews now is not so much to clarify things, but to emphasise the individuals part of it, letting the audience feel what’s going on and not to interpret it as a symbolic film. That’s what makes this project unique for me. For me, this film is about emotion, how people act. Juliano, who you mentioned, said: “Quality is resistance”. I don’t really have to tell any story about Palestinians. If this film manages to be excellent, then that’s already resistance, because it’s an all-Palestinian cast. They’re making great art. So this time I want to reverse the conversation and talk about the artistic aspect, the story-telling aspect and not so much the text that we all already know and hasn’t brought us anywhere for a while.

Martin Lejeune: So there was no trouble getting funding from the Israeli side?

Udi Aloni: I don’t think that I’ll get funding next year. This time, the curator responsible for quality, Nachman Inbar of the Rabinovitch Foundation, loved the story. I don’t think he’s still the curator, but anyone who read it wanted to give it the funding because of the story. It’s true that, because of me being a troublemaker, they thought about not awarding the prize. In the end professionalism won out but I don’t think it will happen again, who knows.

Martin Lejeune: I heard that there was some trouble at the Berlinale about whether to screen the film in the competition or not.

Udi Aloni: It’s a bit problematic, because you’re asking around about victimhood here while I’m after getting the best prize at the Berlinale. So there’s no real correlation between what you’re looking for and what’s actually fact. For the Berlinale the Panorama Special is cooler than the competition, so I’m the last person who can complain.

Martin Lejeune: Your movie is mainly about young people in al-Lud. Among them, there are many internally displaced persons (IDP). Your film raises the Right of Return of Palestinians that is diving the Israeli society.

Udi Aloni: This film is about refugees from within, refugees without refugee camps, within their own land.

Martin Lejeune: Your film is also about women rights in the traditional Arab society.

Udi Aloni: We are fighting for it everywhere not only within Arab Tradition, also in western modernity.

Martin Lejeune: The protagonists in the film are not hyper-realistic but have an element of comedy.

Udi Aloni: I think they are realistic, not hyper-realistic. This is the coolness of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. They are funny, they are not victims and very different from the Palestinians in Gaza. They have enough freedom to see some of the irony of their situation, but they don’t have full freedom so they can joke about being oppressed, but not oppressed to the same extent as their brothers in the Occupied Territories. If you go to Haifa or Jaffa you see these kind of people, so that’s why I think it’s realistic and not hyper-realistic. That’s the community we live in. It’s funny. it’s joking a lot, and we won’t say the kind of things you might expect. You come as a western leftist and are probably dedicated to the cause. I feel it in your questions. But they live there and don’t want to be committed to the cause the whole time. In a way they don’t want to be committed to it at all, because the cause is always calling them against their will. So it’s very different. They are a lot more cool and relaxed with self-irony etc. But probably in Gaza you cannot really be like this. There’s not enough space to have this self-reflection.

Martin Lejeune: Recently I heard a song on YouTube called “To Be An Arab” in Israel by Jowan Safadi, born in an-Nasira and living in the Israeli city Haifa. Do you know it?

Udi Aloni: No, I don’t.

Martin Lejeune: The song is about Palestinian Israeli citizens who don’t have the same rights as Jewish Israeli citizens.

Udi Aloni: Many don’t know the discrimination among Israeli citizens. It’s a bit like it is for black Americans in the USA only worse. Legally the Afro-Americans have the same rights as the whites but it’s not the reality. But in Israel, the Palestinian citizens actually don’t even have the same legal rights, so that’s different. Practically, then, they are like the Afro-Americans but legally speaking it’s different. For example, they can’t give shelter to their relatives in Yarmouk unlike the Jews who can do the same for their relatives from Russia. Actually, I would very much like Palestinians to see this film as it is also critical of Palestinian society not just of Jewish Israeli society.

Martin Lejeune: A Palestinian friend of mine here in Berlin saw the film. His criticism was that it shows Palestinians dying in a car-crash or being shot by another Palestinian, when there are so many Palestinians being killed by the Israeli security forces within the ’48 borders.

Udi Aloni: He’s probably a Palestinian from outside the ’48 borders.

Martin Lejeune: Yes, he’s from Gaza Strip.

Udi Aloni: So, he has his own fantasy. Tamer Nafar wrote it, a true Palestinian. Very few Palestinians inside the ’48 borders are shot by Israelis. Every once and a while at a demonstration maybe.

Martin Lejeune: Well these days there’s a lot more than before.

Udi Aloni: These days for sure, but the movie is not telling the story of right now, the knife issue etc. But in general that’s not the issue, but rather the story of oppression without the killing, the oppression which creates poverty, drug dealing, destroys houses for no reason, or destroy a house and build some ‘progressive’ museum in its place. I mean, even Al-Quda al-Arabiya gave this film an amazing review, something which they never do for Israeli films. I’m not blaming the guy from Gaza, but that’s a result of what the Israelis did: divided the Palestinians into five categories which don’t function together – those in the West Bank, in Gaza, in East Jerusalem, in Israel itself, and in exile. None of them have the same conditions. They also don’t have the same language. It’s weird for a guy for Gaza to hear Palestinians speak Hebrew all the time and be friendly with so many Jews. It’s a whole different situation, many of them working in Universities that is why it’s a very different kind of oppression. This is really clear because Tamer Nafar is the co-writer of this script, so we don’t bullshit. Just as the Israeli side attacks me, so too does the Palestinian side wants to have its cliches. That’s why I cut your question off. This film is different. It’s telling real life, Tamer’s story: the good, the bad, the drug dealers in the community. Of course the situation of Afro-Americans is what it is because of slavery and white supremacy, but that doesn’t mean there are no drug dealers there. The funny thing is that your friend said this, whereas Hollywood Reporter, which tries to be pro-Israel, asked “Why do all these Palestinians look so great in this film, and all the Jews look like monsters?”, which of course is also not the situation. So each side is coming with their ideological filters but this film asks that you watch it without these filters. Also you need to separate my politics from the film. The film is not my politics. The film has to be a film. It’s a big mistake when people try to force their art to be like their politics. My politics are very radical. The film is different. It tries to create the situation as it is.

Martin Lejeune: Your movie shows how difficult life is for so called „48-Palestinians“. But at the same time the movie makes people happy.

Udi Aloni: It’s the music, the beauty of the music which we wrote specially for the film. It’s art, to created art – this is what we wanted to do. Bi-national art, created together to tell a Palestinian story.

Martin Lejeune: Art always has certain borders and limits due to its social affiliation.

Udi Aloni: I wrote about it in my book “What does a Jew want?”, when I said that art, politics and theory are in connection with each other all the time. Each one exists for itself and for the others. So I don’t mean that art is separated from politics. Each of those three, art, theory and activism or politics has to serve the other, but also exist for itself. But if art only serves ideology then it’s bullshit. And if art tries to be exclusively for itself and ignore context, then it’s also bullshit. That’s what so ridiculous in Israel. They are all trying to force their ideology onto this movie and are attacking it without even seeing it. I want people to know, who those ’48ers are, from their own point of view, with their own happiness, bullshit and weaknesses and power and to start a dialogue with that. It’s not the end of a story.

Martin Lejeune: Your film was presented at the German tax funded festival in Berlin during the two-days-visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and several important ministers of his cabinet to Germanys federal capital Berlin. You made some remarks after a screening towards the audience recorded by Israeli TV Channel 10, quoted at the Jeruslame Post: „Germany shouldn’t supply Israel with submarines because of its fascist government.“/Source: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/Leftist-filmmaker-tells-Germans-Dont-sell-submarines-to-fascist-Israel-445547
Udi Aloni: The Germans should invest in peace and not in war-toy. But this is not the issue. The issue is why the Israeli media is embedded with the right wing government in hunting artist from the opposition. „Junction 48“ is a prove which amazing stuff can be done togehter by Arabs and Jews. Netanyahu promotes hate, we show which wonderful things come out of coexistance.

Martin Lejeune: „Junction 48“ is a well-written fiction film that was inspired by the real-life experiences of leading actor and co-writer Tamer Nafar, who started the Arab hip-hop scene in 2000. What was the intention of your cooperation with Tamer Nafar?

Udi Aloni: Tamer and I try to break the rules about the repetition of the conversation about the occupation. We felt that we are always failing at the same things and that if we could do something together that was strong and amazing and authentic. I mean you saw just now at the Questions & Answers after the screening so many Palestinians stood up and said “thank you!”, and suddenly the weight they are carrying on their shoulders, like Atlas, just falls off. They can just tell the story without carrying an obligation, and that’s their right – a right for Palestinians to be normal sometimes, not to always carry the cross. That’s what’s so beautiful about Tamer, he’s carrying the cross sometimes and sometimes he’s not. Part of that is to show that they can leave it and not all the time portray victimhood. They can also portray power or life against all the odds. And this film is about wanting to live against all the odds. That’s why it’s about music, about hip-hop. Even though the story itself is pessimistic it’s energy is nonetheless optimistic. Even though you see drugs, misogyny, destruction of houses and racism but afterward you think ‘there’s something good here’. This energy is something that could affect a change and that’s what we try to achieve here.

Martin Lejeune: I heard very good things about your project in Jenin.

Udi Aloni: Without Jenin this would not have happened. Without Juliano this would not have happened.

Martin Lejeune: Juliano was an exceptional person and artist.

Udi Aloni: Juliano is not exceptional, he’s a friend for many of us and we still carry him with us. He’s exceptional but he’s within us. I was his best friend. the minute he was killed it was very traumatic. One of his students is here at Gorki theatre and I made this film with Tamer.

Martin Lejeune: Why would this film not be possible without Juliano and without Jenin?

Udi Aloni: I learned about binationalism, not from here (Udi points to his head). Edward Said (a legendary Palestinian literary theoretician at Columbia University) taught me how to think binationalism. Juliano taught me how to dance it, walk it, how to feel it in the body. So, the more I support the Palestinians, the more Jewish I become and not the other way around.

Martin Lejeune: In the UK and in the USA as well as in many other Western countries, there is a civil discourse going on about the Palestinian grassroots movement „Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions“ (BDS) that intends to increase economic and political pressure on Israel. Right now, the civil discourse about BDS is very lively in Germany because of the visit of the Israeli government to Berlin and because a German city is awarding for the first time a prize to a BDS supporting organization, the US based peace movement CODEPINK (FURTHER DETAILS ON http://www.martinlejeune.com/?p=3202
Udi Aloni: The film is smarter than me. If this film is smarter than me, then I don’t want to destroy it with my own personal opinions. And Germany is a place which is very complex when it comes to speak about this. But I am here first of all to let the film come across as a product of life. I destroyed too much by acting as a shahid (martyr) in my life. This time I created something with said ‘yes’ to life and I want this to be at the forefront. That’s what I want to speak about.

Martin Lejeune: You wanted to do something constructive.

Udi Aloni: I was talking to the French philosopher Alain Badiou and he said that it is time for us leftists to offer something positive. We have to say yes to life and this film is saying yes to life.

Martin Lejeune: How did Israeli film critics respond to your movie?

Udi Aloni: They had excellent remarks about my film.

Martin Lejeune: Thank you for the interview.

The lyrics of Jowan Safadi’s recent YouTube Hit „To be an Arab“ translated from Hebrew into English:

„Hardcore homophobes
Are the most gay on the inside
Mizrachi Arabophobes
Are Arabs themselves
Who are just afraid
And prefer to stay in the closet
Because they know, they know the best
That to be an Arab is not that great

It’s hard to be an Arab
It’s really hard, ask me
It’s hard to be an Arab
How much can one be black
Under the rule of the rich and white
In the racist state

Sephardics or Mizrachis
Once they too were Arabs
They changed their names
To change their destiny
Because they know, they know best
They know better than anyone
They know, they know best
They paid the bloody price
They learned it on their skin

It’s hard to be an Arab
It’s really hard, ask me
It’s hard to be an Arab
How much can one be black
Under the rule of the rich and white
In the racist state

Listen to me, dude
You need to know where you came from
And where you’re going to
And what you’re gonna find
Standing in the streets and chanting death to Arabs and such shit
You’re an Arab man more fucked than I am

Hey you imported Arab,
Take it from a local Arab
You were dragged here
To take my place

It’s hard to be an Arab
It’s really hard, ask me
It’s hard to be an Arab
How much can one be black
Under the rule of the rich and white
In the land of Palestine“

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