YIDFF 2005 International Competition
Route 181—Fragments of a Journey in Palestine-Israel
An Interview with Michel Khleifi, Eyal Sivan (Directors)
Interviewer: Sato Makoto (Director, Out of Place)

The Necessity of 270 Minutes

Sato Makoto (SM): I also have been to Palestine to shoot a film about Edward Said. In a place like that, it is very difficult to encounter the wide variety of different people that appear in this film. Also, in the film I felt that the perspectives of the Israeli director and Palestinian director are intersecting. The film makes us feel as if it could have been produced while traveling over an extended period of time, or during a short period of time. How much time did you actually spend on the filming?

Michel Khleifi (MK): We shot it in six weeks. The five-person crew consisted of the two of us, the cameraman, sound engineer, and an assistant. In the end, we came away with 100 hours of footage. Of the 100 hours, about forty percent was landscape shots from inside the vehicle. I mean, we wanted viewers to physically and materially feel the fact that we were traveling. In other words, we were shooting “time” and “distance.”

SM: In this film you have wrenched open the ideology of present day Israel, or in other words dismantled the nation as a fabrication, while each maintaining your own respective perspectives. To what extent were the characters random encounters, as opposed to people you met through prior research?

Eyal Sivan (ES): The first thing I’d like to make clear is that we didn’t make this film emphasizing two different perspectives. We wanted to take a new approach toward the region, both geographically and historically. That connected with the subject of “route.” It’s true that we visited each place using a map, with the knowledge that there had formerly been a Palestinian village at each location, although they are all now part of Israel. But the people we filmed were unplanned encounters that just happened.

MK: For example, when making a film dealing with Edward Said, the director has in mind some kind of form and method, such as deciding to interview various people who were involved or to read Said’s writings. In our case, we filmed people who we encountered on the road, based on the aim of talking about history through the present. We had decided on that approach from the start.

SM: Did some conflict erupt between the two of you, given that two directors with their own distinct perspectives were editing 100 hours of footage? Perhaps that lent a sense of tension to this film.

MK: At first we were thinking of making a ninety-minute piece, but it was impossible. This is because with ninety minutes, you can’t help but be dragged along by subjective things. This region has already been scarred by confrontations between the subjective perspectives of various ethnic groups, so we were trying for a stance other than a subjective approach. Rather than looking at the nation and unified ideologies, we aimed to disassemble those ideologies and their subjective perspectives. In order to do this, we made an effort to film individual, concrete things. We disposed with our own subjective perspectives as much as possible, and just used the footage as it was, and created a four-and-a-half hour documentary. So we wanted to emphasize portraying the raw reality, rather than privileging either Arabs or Israelis.

ES: I am a little different from Michel, in the sense that I had curiosity, in a positive sense, and didn’t aim to completely dispose of my personal interests while making the documentary. All the people who appear have something mysterious about them, which I wanted to see. I think that instead of first having an autocratic theme and then the spectacle of cinema, there is something enjoyable about sitting down for four-and-a-half hours, and just watching to see what kinds of people appear.

(Compiled by Hashiura Taichi)

Interpreters: Catherine Cadou, Ukai Satoshi
Photography: Kawaguchi Hajime / Video: Hashiura Taichi / 2005-10-12