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Interview: Ziad Doueiri • Director

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"Daring to show what can be disturbing"


- Encounter in Los Angeles with the director of The Attack, a film that won several prizes but is nevertheless banned in 22 countries.

Interview: Ziad Doueiri • Director

Based on the novel of the same name by Yasmina Khadra, The Attack [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Ziad Doueiri
film profile
by Ziad Doueiri is a complex psychological drama about denial. After receiving awards in San Sebastian, Toronto and Marrakech, the film won the Cineuropa Prize at the Istanbul Film Festival in April 2013. We met the director in Los Angeles, where he received three prizes at the 17th COLCOA French Film Festival in Hollywood.

Cienuropa: What were your intentions when you decided to adapt Yasmina Khadra’s novel?
Ziad Doueiri: I co-wrote the movie with my wife, Joëlle Touma, inspired by the novel that I really enjoyed. It was such hard work between writing and finding funding to carry out this project, which took up a lot of my time. My approach was to go beyond what everyone knows about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the positions adopted by the various parties involved. My aim was to show another vision, another way of thinking about this conflict, which has been going on for years. Through my main character and from the first scene in the film, you see above all a human drama taking shape with a loving husband whose peaceful life in Tel-Aviv is shattered when he discovers that his wife has been involved in a bomb attack. This is the starting point for a series of questions leading into the maze of the collective subconscious, hasty decision-making... I therefore chose to deal with a delicate matter without taking sides, the point being primarily to address a real problem through fiction, a love story. It is in no way about defending one side over the other...

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To what extent did you stay true to the original text?
Yasmina Khadra is a talented author who skilfully makes you enter his universe, and his writing is ferociously criticized in the Arab world. When I read his book, I was literally captivated by his unique way of narrating the story, making you get under the skin of his characters. I therefore tried to stay as close as possible to his work. That being said, the end is different...

What message do you want to give through this film? I don’t know that I have any particular message. When I sat down to write the movie, I didn't have one, I simply wanted to show how you can be married to a woman for 15 years, whom you love very much and to whom you have given everything, to one day realize that you are overwhelmed by the events unfolding in front of you. It is not a political movie, it is mostly a love story.

Why did you choose to take on such a difficult subject?
As filmmakers, isn’t it somehow our role to question ourselves? If we don’t, who will? Who will overturn the stone, shake the system... Politicians are sadly often unwilling to get involved. So someone has to do it, you have to go against the current and dare to show what may be disturbing.

The film has been boycotted throughout the Arab world? How do you react to this censorship?
Basically, I expected it. We have to make mentalities evolve and make people think in an intelligent manner. The Lebanese government first gave its agreement for the film's distribution, then gave in to pressure from the “committee for the boycott of Israel”. I feel a kind of shame. I am for open-mindedness. We have to review and examine our own certainties. Talking with the Israelis doesn’t mean that we accept occupation. The people who reacted negatively did not see the film. This attitude does not help the Palestinian cause. People who boycott the film are only causing more trouble for Arab artists.


international title: The Attack
original title: The Attack
country: Lebanon, France, Egypt, Belgium
sales agent: Wild Bunch
year: 2012
directed by: Ziad Doueiri
screenplay: Ziad Doueiri, Joelle Touma
cast: Ali Suliman, Evgenia Dodena, Raymond Amsalem

main awards/selection

Telluride Film Festival 2012 
Toronto International Film Festival 2012 
Donostia-San Sebastián International Film Festival 2012 
Mill Valley Film Festival 2012 
Göteborg International Film Festival 2013 
CPH PIX 2013 
COLCOA Film Festival, Los Angeles 2013 
Montclair Film Festival 2013 

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