Pomegranates and Myrrh is my first fictional film It is about a Palestinian female dancer's search for freedom after her husband is imprisoned. I participated in the Sundance Scriptwriting Lab and the script for this movie won me the Amiens Scriptwriting Award. Before this I had done short films such as Yasmine Tughani, Naim and Wadee'a, Quintessence of Oblivion, Blue Gold, A Boy Called Mohammad and They came from East. I have won a few awards as well. However, making a fictional film was an entirely new experience.
The title has a bittersweet symbolism. According to ancient Arab folklore, every pomegranate has one seed that comes from heaven. For me that seed represents hope.
In my film, pomegranates (which in Arab culture represent fertility and life) stand for the sweetness in life while myrrh (or "mor" in Arabic) represents the bitterness in life.
I spent my early childhood in Saudi Arabia. Growing up in a place which does not have cinemas [allowed me to get lost in the world of books]. My imagination ran wild and I used to visualise stories in my mind. Also, not having the option of sitting with a remote control before a TV (as there weren't many channels available) meant that I was always outdoors with my brothers riding bikes, climbing hills, playing with our gazelle, or indulging in some kind of adventure. I did my undergraduate studies in Political Science/Economics and postgraduate studies in film and video production in Washington, in the US.
Film-making turned out to be a natural transition for me. My father, who had worked as a journalist, gave me his camera when I was ten years old. This, in a sense, introduced me to the world of film. As an avid reader and writer, I grew up realising the injustice that had been done in Palestine, and I was angered by the fact that the world, in general, was silent about this. I knew that the media had immense power to bring about change, and I felt it was important that we Palestinians tell our story to dispel stereotypes which do not reflect reality.
I experienced some unforgettable moments during the making of this film. I recall the time when we were preparing to film a raid scene in Jebya, a Palestinian village outside Ramallah, and the people of the town, who were not aware that we were shooting a film, thought it was an actual raid. It was chilling to realise how thin the line between fiction and reality is. On the lighter side, rehearsals with the Palestinian star Hiam Abbass, had us in stitches.
Making Pomegranates and Myrrh taught me that persistence pays. This film is a fruit of labour, love, and at times of hardship that we [the crew] experienced for seven years. Early in the making of the film, we had to suspend production after our French co-producer died. It was also a time when the situation in Palestine began to worsen. It was a difficult time to say the least. But then luckily doors opened, several people came [forward to help us with the project] and we managed to complete the film.
I've always had an enormous amount of compassion for underdogs. Maybe it has to do with having attended school where we [Palestinians] were a minority. I grew up with a fragmented knowledge of history but knew that enormous injustice is being done to Palestinians.
I want to make more films. At the moment, I am in the pre-production phase for our second feature Eyes of a Thief. It is a thriller/drama, based on a true story. We are looking to get some financing and will hopefully start filming by the end of this year.
Describe a memorable moment in your life.
There are many but what stands out is when Pomegranates was named the opening film at the Arabian Nights Red Carpet gala at the Fifth Dubai International Film Festival in 2008. The seven years of hard work and pain paid off when I had the chance to stand with some of the actors, producers, investors and family on the red carpet. To us, Palestine was being honoured.
Your job in a sentence...
Watch movies, read books, listen to music, write stories... cannot imagine a better job.
I love any outdoor sport, travel, art and theatre.