12/09/2014

Yahya Alabdallah, Palestinian-Jordanian director

"I want the decision-makers, when they watch the movie, to breathe a little bit and re-think what’s going on"

Events and Festivals, Jordan, Palestine

Yahya Alabdallah, Palestinian-Jordanian director

After his successful first feature film The Last Friday in 2011, Palestinian-Jordanian filmmaker Yahya Alabdallah attended the Venice Film Festival this August with his second film project, The Council. The documentary film project took part in the festival's post-production workshop, Final Cut in Venice, where it won its top prize.

 

Tell us about your project, The Council, that you are presenting here in Venice. 

The Council tells the story of a student council in a Palestinian refugee school in Jordan, and I follow their journey from the beginning of the academic year until the end of the year. Through that journey, we find out a lot about schools inside the Middle East. What made me make that movie – I used to be an Arabic teacher for seven years, so I’ve seen the difference between the high schools, private schools and the poor schools, the government schools. So I went to the government school to see, what are the issues that the new generation is suffering from? Through that journey, I focused on three issues. The first one is the safety issue. Are our children safe in school? The second issue is skills. What kind of skills are our children getting in that important age, which builds their mentality and builds their behaviour?

The third issue is separation, the separation of boys and girls. This issue, I think, is really important, because if it effects the first two -- the safety and the skills -- and also it will effect the relationship between man and woman. What I think is that most of the problems come from the seperation.

Are the children acting, or do they appear as themselves?

I spent a year in the Palestinian camp, and I shot 60 days during the year. So it’s 60 days of production and I was there observing what’s going on with the student council. So the problems that they wanted to solve, all that atmosphere -- I was there with a small camera. For the first two months, I didn’t shoot anything, I just had my camera to make everyone used to me and my camera being there. So that then, after that, no one would notice that I was there or that I existed. What happened there are the same things that I have seen [over] the last seven years when I was an Arabic teacher.

And you think that you can change this mentality, the way that public schools function?

Yes, because I wasn’t really happy about what's going on. That’s why this is for me, because I quit teaching a month ago. So this is for me like a statement according to the issues that I really think, if we solve [them], it will effect our next generation.

So that’s why I want the decision-makers, when they watch the movie, to breathe a little bit and re-think what’s going on. Because the problems that are happening -- to solve them, it needs a political decision. And this political decision, if this movie reaches those people… Part of my mission is that I want to give them this movie to watch, and to see what decision they could make to change the situation… It’s a political decision, to change the reality. 

You have just won the top prize at Final Cut in Venice.

I was lucky. I am happy, and happy to know that my film will be post-produced soon. It was amazing that Italians -- all Italians -- like my film, so it might just be opening the door to be shown in Italy. This is a dream for me, so I’m really happy. And, as well, we got the broadcast award, so for two years that means my film will be broadcast on national Italian TV. The story is international, so the Italian audiance can relate to what’s happening in Jordan, because what’s happening there is happening in a lot of schools around the world.

 

Video interview:

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