Eran Kolirin faces pain with humor and absurdity – the forward
“Let It Be Morning”, the latest film by Eran Kolirin, the Israeli director best known for his 2007 comedy “The Band’s Visit”, is another mildly absurd comedy with a predominantly Arab cast. The film, presented in world premiere in Un Certain Régard at the Cannes Film Festival, tells the story of Sami, a Palestinian telecoms executive, who finds himself unable to return to Jerusalem, where he works and lives, after her return to her West Bank village for her brother’s wedding. Cut off from the outside world, Sami finds himself in a strange pattern of waiting as he takes shelter in place with people from his previous life and makes several trips to the Israeli checkpoint in hopes of obtaining a cell phone to call his Israeli boss and mistress.
In Cannes, the director attended without his actors, who had decided to protest against a recent Israeli law which obliges government-funded films to advertise themselves as Israeli productions. (Half of the NIS 4 million budget for “Let It Be Morning” came from the Israeli government.)
Instead of the cast, the 47-year-old director appeared on stage at the Claude Debussy Theater with an Etrog-like lemon on a massive vine he had bought from a local covered market.
Let’s start with the actors’ decision not to come to Cannes.
I think this is a very dignified protest decision. I never go on stage saying, “Hey, this is my Israeli film to you. The only real reason for this recent law was to prevent and ban Palestinian citizens of Israel, when they make a film – which is made with their own tax money like everyone else and which is supposed to be equal citizens – to present their own national identity. . Thus, the cast of the film did not want to be culturally erased. They decided to protest in their absence. Of course, I respect that and support their actions.
Was the Cannes film festival itself opposed to this being an Israeli-Palestinian production?
It has nothing to do with Cannes. This is a specific direction and attitude of the Israeli government.
It’s been a long time since your last film, “Beyond the Mountains and the Hills”, premiered at Cannes in 2016, also in the Un Certain Régard section. How long have you been working on “Let It Be Morning? “
I started working on the film seven years ago, with intense work over the past four years. In fact, I completed the edit before COVID started. He was accepted at Cannes last year, but we decided to wait.
Given that much of the film is about the experience of containment and life in containment, I am surprised to learn that it has been completed. before the pandemic. This scene where Sami, the main character played by Alex Bakri, goes to the market and there is nothing on the shelves but batteries and Christmas lights eerily reminiscent of aspects of our own life not so long ago .
Yes, I’m shocked at how relevant this has become.
Like all your films, “Let It Be Morning” deals with serious themes with a tone of sweet absurdity.
There would have been several ways to make a film on this subject. There is real pain in the movie, but a lot of moments where people come together and cross paths in a fun way.
Was it a challenge to find the right tone?
It was hard. It was a really specific journey to find the actors, to convince them, to work with them and to develop the script before finding the right feeling. It pretty much came with the script and the cut. It’s like a little theater with all these absurd little things that sort of revolve around the same theme of being locked up and being locked inside. It took a while before this sounded the right way.
One of my favorite touches is the scene where Sami walks around the village with two watermelons under his arms. He drags them around for so long that you almost forget them.
What I like to do is give each scene different layers. You might have something very cruel, like when Sami gets head butted by this huge guy, but he’s still stuck with two watermelons, so that always makes the scenes a bit weird and a bit off balance. I also love watermelons and had them on “The Band’s Visit” so I thought: Why not use watermelons again?
You prefer to use the comic and the absurd to make a film about pain and oppression. Can you talk about these choices?
First of all, I think in difficult situations people always have more humor. It’s one of our survival tools, just looking at the absurdity. And that’s my own personal tendency to laugh.
Sami, the main character played by Alex Bakri, is an unusual figure to see portrayed in Israeli cinema. He studied, lives and works in Israel. You even give her an Israeli mistress! The reaction of his family – especially that of his wife – is unusual and unexpected. No one considers him a traitor for having slept with the enemy.
Even though he has the elements of a traitor, as you said, he lives in both worlds. In tense situations some people hold on to their ideologies harder and others just see that life just doesn’t make sense, so you could at least have fun while you’re at it. The mother is just a practical human being and worried about her son, not about ideology. On a more general level, the movie talks a lot about love and about relearning love by accepting each other and accepting yourself.
The Palestinian village in the film is meant to be outside of Jerusalem, and towards the end of the film, part of the border wall pops up overnight. Where did you actually shoot the movie?
We turned north, near the border with Lebanon. And the border wall you see is a combination of reconstruction and CGI. I didn’t want the village to feel like a specific place. I wanted it to be like “once upon a time in a small village” without specific road signs.
It must be horrible as an Israeli filmmaker to always be asked about the political situation while you are here to discuss your film.
Its good. It’s part of life. I think there isn’t much of a distinction between the staff, as you can see in the movie. It’s all part of the same thing.
Where are you on BDS?
First of all, their goal is right, so I respect it. I can’t tell anyone how to behave. It is not natural for me. My way is to collaborate, to speak, to be open, but I will not judge the struggles of others. This is their fight and it manifests itself in this way and I hope the right way to go about it is not just to say how bad it is but maybe also to try to hear what the goals are and the reasons behind it.
Have any of the Palestinian and Arab actors in the film been accused of collaboration?
I’m not aware of any direct accusations, but what I do know, what I feel, is that there is a lot of concern about how they will be viewed. It’s a very tense conflict and these establishments operate in a very strict and brutal manner, which is not always acceptable to me. But the problem is, when you speak quietly, no one is listening to you.
Have you seen Nadav Lapid’s new film “Ahed’s Knee?” “
Not yet, but I really liked “Synonyms”.
The premise of Lapid’s new film is a filmmaker who leads a self-defeating battle against a minor incident that he believes contains the seeds of government censorship.
He is not detached from reality. This is how it starts to be. For me there was no limit because, in the end, [in Israel] a lot of things work on self-censorship because they produce all these kinds of weird laws, like this law of presentation, that only make real sense to tell you that someone is watching what you say. The last Minister of Culture [Miri Regev] was very difficult, but I hope it is better now.