Hadar Morag • Director
"It changes the perspective on taking responsibility; this is what I wanted to show"
by Sabine Kues
- Israeli director Hadar Morag's debut, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me, was screened in Venice's Orizzonti section and depicts a unique bond between a young Palestinian boy and a knife sharpener
Hadar Morag was one of two female Israeli directors who presented their debut films (hers being Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me [+see also:
interview: Hadar Morag
film profile]) in the Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival, alongside director Yaelle Kayam. Morag’s short film Silence was nominated for Cannes’ Cinéfondation Award in 2008. Cineuropa sat down with her to discuss what inspired her to depict the special bond between her two protagonists as well as her work as a director.
Cineuropa: Not only is the title a Biblical quote, but your film also opens with a phrase from the Bible. What role does religion play in your movie?
Hadar Morag: I'm now starting my Master's degree in Theology and Philosophy, and while studying I was reading Divinely Abused, about Job who is being abused by God, but still maintains a relationship with him. And this relationship ends with silence. The author is trying to understand that silence and what it means. She compares the relationship between a god and a believer with an abuser, like a husband who beats up his wife. It's all about physical things; that's why it's so traumatic. So for me, these in-between zones are the most interesting.
What is the actual so-called sin committed by Muhammad?
I don't think Muhammad is a sinner. I think what he does through the act of marking his flesh is to draw a line within him. He is giving a linguistic message. It's like he's saying: "This is it, I'm not allowing you to go further." That's why I think it's a very positive message at the end. Someone is stopping this cycle of abuse. I think Muhammad feels it in himself in a way, because he is masturbating, he is yelling at his sister that she is a slut. You are born and raised in this culture, and you act upon it. You have to pass it on, and in the end, he puts a stop to it. He chooses himself, and I think that's heroic. It changes the perspective on taking responsibility; this is what I wanted to show.
What attracts Muhammad to the knife sharpener Gurevich?
I think that Muhammad is very alone in the beginning. He is abused by both Arabs and Jews, and I think then he sees another person, who is also a nomad but who has power. And you could say that the knife is also a phallus. Standing on the roof at the beginning, Gurevich is like this god. You don't know anything about him, but you want to be close to him. That for me is the attraction. And then Muhammad was looking for him the whole time and found him with this kid. I think this is "Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me", in a way.
You presented the film project in the Crossroads Co-Production Forum at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival in 2011. Was it difficult to make the movie?
It was very hard; I had to change my producers along the way because it didn't work out for me. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and I wanted to do it in a different way. It was hard because we had to get permits for Muhammad to come to Israel, and it was a major struggle with a lot of changes and crises. The funding came pretty quickly, but it was all the rest of it that was very difficult.
Alongside Yaelle Kayam, you were the second Israeli filmmaker to be presenting your debut film in Venice. Are we going to see and hear more female voices from Israel in the future?
They are actually talking about a new Israeli film era. That's amazing! I know Yaelle from Israel. There are a few amazing women there who I know are working on films, and that's incredible. Feminism and women are very important to me, but I do my thing. I know I put men in front of the camera, and I'm sure it will also create some problems with women that I did that. I just try to be true to my own self and to carry my message out.
How was the feedback in Israel?
We had some amazing feedback. But there were also people who had issues with the sound, and the film flows differently from other movies - some people can't really connect to it, but that's ok. Not everyone has to connect to it; it's a good thing. And I think it's a film where you have to think a lot, whereas some people prefer entertainment.
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