One sequence shot of 81 minutes is the way director Amos Gitai chooses to capture a moment in the life of a small community of outcasts, where Arabs and Jews live together in an enclave at the border between Jaffa and Bat Yam. One day a young journalist visits them and gets captivated by their accounts and their universe.
Amos Gitai talks about his Ana Arabia:
How did you get acquainted with the situation portrayed in the film?
I’ve been working for 30 years through documentaries and fiction and these fragments of stories. I’m a big collector of contradictions and eventually decided to make this film also because I had the feeling that the region is going through such savagery so it is kind of necessary and urgent to put some questions into it. And my language to do this is cinema.
Why did you decided to shoot this 81 minute feature in a long uncut sequence?
For me cinema has to walk on both feet, one being narrative meaning, the other being form. I see too many films as a spectator that have form but no meaning at all, but at the same time we can see films that we can identify ourselves in but it’s to instrumentalised, too didactic. So I think the real challenge is to try to do both. Since I wanted to tell a story about the mixture of the society, the contradictions, the love stories and so on, and I wanted to show that this complexity should survive and have continuity. The best way was to create one sequence shot to suggest there was no way of cutting between Arabs and Jews, Palestinians and Israelis, women and men. This is also a statement about what is happening in the region, which is about ethnic cleansing, brutality, killing, savagery.
Did you film the entire shot several times?
I had to shoot it several times, not too many though. I take it almost as a compliment when people who have seen the film, don’t realise it’s one shot, it means that the formal gadget doesn’t take over. I’ve done quite a lot of one sequence-shot movies, but in Ana Arabia I like the fact that the one shot defines the rhythm of the film. I think that uncut long shots are like cooking: if it takes too long it becomes rigid and dry, if you’re too prompt it’s not quite ready. You have to install the choreography, the text, the movement of the camera, the change of lights.
What about the location of the Ana Arabia?
It’s a very important actor. I was formed as an architect and not as a film-maker, I never studied cinema. I’m a little exhausted as a citizen of all these exaggerated architectural gestures, all these meaningless skyscrapers and museums. Good architecture for me isn’t only about design, it’s about making liveable spaces for people with a good composition. I loved the place where I shot the place because it’s the opposite. The people who live in this kind of bidonville are happy to be in complete contact with nature. It’s all about non standardised human. We’ve been producing too many clichés, so we have to allow individual expression.
Do you think this movie will be appreciated in you country as well as in Arabia?
Some people will, others won’t. I don’t understand why some of my colleagues from the so-called show business want to be loved by everyone. I don’t love everybody, so why should everyone love me? Everyone has the right to express their aversion to something just as their appreciation.