An Interview with Iman Kamel (Director)
Freedom is Challenging Yourself: Traveling the World of Nomads Through Images
Q: I thought Selema was a woman who had lived a very strong life. How did you come to choose her as your subject?
IK: When I met her in 2004, she was heading-up a handicraft project for tourists. That same year I began thinking of making a film on the Sinai Peninsula, and while traveling the peninsula I was looking for people and stories to be subjects. Little by little I came to focus on Selema; she is a special woman. However, this film isn’t about Selma, me or the Bedouin people. Like a Japanese haiku, it should be called the condensed essence of my travels in Sinai.
Q: In the catalog you speak of “being a nomad in today’s modern life.” What did you mean by that?
IK: There is a deep feeling inside me that we have to connect very deeply with all the different people in the world and nature. I have endeavored to travel the world, connecting with people, looking for simple and harmonious ways of life. These three days I spent in shukubo lodgings where no one speaks English, but I was able to spend them in wonderful harmony with the people around me. This is what I seek, and my reason for making films. “Being a nomad” means having a wide heart, walking the world and learning. I believe this is the most important thing for us.
Q: You appear in the last scene of this film. Was that an attempt to juxtapose yourself with Selema?
IK: Shooting the Bedouin women required a long process. They are very shy to the camera, and we spent most of our time in deep meditation. I was naturally made to contemplate my own life, and my co-writer forced my story into this film. However, as I said before, this film is different from a traditional documentary dealing with a specific group of people. This film is an invitation for you to enter and travel the world of your imagination. I want you to become a nomad, distancing yourself from your ideologies and nationalities and leaving your small homes to meet and connect with others. I think this is an extremely important thing in today’s society in a period of transition. The “freedom” in the line “I want to be free” in the last scene does not refer to fleeing or emancipating something. To be free is to challenge yourself, to challenge yourself anew in something you do not know.
Q: I was moved by the scene in which Selema and her husband stare into the camera.
IK: I encountered many taboos in the middle of shooting this film. That Selema’s husband allowed Selema to be filmed was revolutionary in Bedouin society. I was honored, and wanted to shoot the two of them together. This scene is a very important part in this film. It is a very long scene, and many things are happening. Here it shows the shooting process and the essence of this documentary together.
Cinema is not interview, but real connection. In this scene the camera is close to its subjects, and it looks at how they cope with the situation. There is a mutual exchange between subject and camera, and that precisely is the essence of film. Films are a kind of dialogue, and a powerful tool for communication.
(Compiled by Okada Mana)
Interviewers: Okada Mana, Saito Risa / Interpreter: Saito Shinko / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Koshimizu Emi / Video: Ichikawa Eri / 2011-10-07