DOX interviewed the filmmakers about their expectations and their perception of this rather unusual project.
The project of making four 3-minute documentaries came about in the aftermath of a pitching workshop in Ramallah given by UK producers Jess Search from BritDoc and Beadie Finzi in May 2006 at Shashat, an organization seeking to promote the Palestinian filmmaking community with focus on women’s cinema. The workshop participants wanted to create an opportunity to pitch a project in a real market, and this led to the deal with Channel 4 to make “3-minute wonders from Palestine”. Beadie Finzi became the executive producer on the project, which received financial support from the British Council and the Karim Rida Said Foundation.
Four projects from filmmakers Alia Arasoughly, Dima Abu Ghoush, Wafa Jamil and Mohanad Yaqubi were selected, and the films were shot within three weeks in the West Bank. Editing was planned with British editors in London but only Alia Arasoughly and Dima Abu Ghoush made it there. Mohanad Yaqubi did the editing in Ramallah, and Wafa Jamil was never allowed to finish her film, as she was denied permission to leave the West Bank by Israeli soldiers. Alia Arasoughly made a longer version of her film, and Mohanad Yaqubi is currently seeking production funds in UK to make a longer version of his.
DOX: “What were your expectations when you got involved in this project?”
Mohanad Yaqubi: I thought that it would be a good chance to have some time to be more immersed in the film. It motivated me to start thinking seriously about the feature documentary film, and I was expecting that it would make me a little more visible on the British scene and give me experience with it.
Dima Abu Ghoush: I have to admit that maybe I had high expectations from this experience. I hoped to meet producers interested in co-productions with filmmakers from my country. I hoped that making this film for Channel 4 might lead to working on a longer film, but that didn’t happen!!! Well, I did meet a few producers at Sheffield Film Festival, but nothing concrete developed so far.
(The initial project was planned so filmmakers would pitch a project at the Sheffield International Film Festival, but this never happened because Jess Search and Beadie Finzi were unable to attend the festival and introduce the filmmakers.)
Alia Arasoughly: I expected that the executive producer would work more closely with us on our vision and production, and that there would be more of a “creative and professional relationship” between us. We all produced on our own in Palestine, shooting our material, etc. It is good that we got to do the productions, and we benefited from the project, but I think it could have been more empowering for us if we were in direct contact with Channel 4 and also had a say about how we each spent the production money for our three-minute wonder, as each one of us could have done different things, and perhaps cheaper, and prioritized differently.
DOX: “How was the collaboration with the British editors?”
Dima: Working with an editor for the first time is not easy in general. But I was really lucky; the editor I worked with was really good. We discussed the structure and style of the piece and he was very cooperative and helped make the best of the material I had and make the film I wanted to make.
I don’t know if the fact that I had studied film in the UK helped, maybe it did. But more importantly, I think that making a film is teamwork, and if everyone understands his/her role, has a common understanding of the film and for editing and sees the footage as it is and not as they want it to be, then there’s a good chance to make a good film. And fortunately, that’s what happened.