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BERLINALE 2024 Panorama

Basel Adra, Yuval Abraham • Directors of No Other Land

“None of us have any experience with documentaries, so we just decided to go on this journey together as part of our activism”

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- Two of the four-strong team of directors explain why they made a project documenting the forced resettlement of a Palestinian community in the occupied West Bank

Basel Adra, Yuval Abraham  • Directors of No Other Land
Basel Adra (left) and Yuval Abraham (© Dario Caruso/Cineuropa)

Cineuropa met up with Palestinian director Basel Adra and Israeli helmer Yuval Abraham, two of the four directors of No Other Land [+see also:
film review
interview: Basel Adra, Yuval Abraham
film profile
]
, which won the Best Documentary Award and Audience Award in the Panorama strand of the 74th Berlinale (see the news). The filmmakers, journalists and activists explain why they started to make their horrific project documenting the forced resettlement of the Palestinian community of Masafer Yatta in the occupied West Bank. The film is also a testament to their civil courage, as they were pushed around and beaten many times while recording the material.

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Cineuropa: How did this project first come about?
Basel Adra:
We are a collective of four directors: me, Yuval, Rachel Szor and Hamdan Ballal. Hamdan and I live in Masafer Yatta in the southern part of the occupied West Bank. Yuval and Rachel came to our area five years ago or earlier to do their journalistic work. As they were starting to come more and more often, we began to talk about the political situation, and we saw that they wanted to be with us and show solidarity. They were against the occupation and the apartheid system. One day, Hamdan suggested we make a documentary to show what’s happening there. None of us have any experience with documentaries, so we just decided to go on this journey together as part of our activism. We were filming, taking photos and writing, and we thought it was very important to make this documentary in order to present it to the audience, mainly in the Western world, where people don’t know what their governments are supporting, exactly. And they should know where their money and weapons are going. To do what? To come to my community, to destroy sheep shelters, bathrooms and schools, to prevent people from having water, to build settlements and expand them, to carry out ethnic cleansing on us as Palestinians, to chase us from our land, and to steal it for the settlers. This is what's going on. It's not a conflict, it's not both sides; it's not what people want to call it. It's an apartheid; it's an occupation. All human rights [organisations] have said so very clearly. And this is our day-to-day life. If you were to put the camera in different communities and turn it on, 90 minutes of scenes similar to what we have in our film could unfold within one day.

Yet you have been filming in Masafer Yatta at least since 2020, as is stated in the film.
Yuval Abraham:
Actually, it’s a bit more than that. Before we started to work together, Basel had been filming alone for seven years, and Hamdan probably for ten years. And in the film, we also have a lot of archival footage that was filmed by Basel's parents and neighbours, and it dates back 20 years, to when Basel was a child.

The final scenes are from October 2023. When did you decide to start editing?
YA:
That was a big question for us while we were working because the situation doesn’t ever end. And when you're telling a story, you have to end it somehow – but how do you end something that is still ongoing? At the same time, we didn’t want to finish the film after the communities had been destroyed and people would be going to watch it and would be sad for them. Then, it would have had no meaning, because they would already have been completely expelled.

After October, as you see at the end of the film, without spoiling it too much, the settlers became like soldiers in the area. They invaded Basel's village, they shot his cousin, and communities started to leave for the first time. And for us, that was the moment when we said, “Okay, the film has to end; it has to be out there so this can be stopped.”

Yuval, you say in the film that when you started to learn Arabic, you changed your views. Can you elaborate?
YA:
Part of my family is Jewish-Arab; my grandfather, who was a Jewish Yemeni, spoke fluent Palestinian Arabic. So, learning the language connected me to my family and to the Palestinians who are living around me. I felt like, all my life, I had had one eye closed and didn’t see a lot of things happening, and then by learning Arabic, I opened the other eye, and started to see and hear about life under the occupation in a direct way, because I could hear people talking and had a much deeper understanding of what was going on. If you really want to learn a language, you have to imagine yourself in a native speaker’s shoes; you don’t just translate what other people say. So it made me think, “What if I was living under occupation like Basel?” That changed something inside of me.

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