VIS Festival: “In Israel, whatever you do is political.”

The creators of the short film Between a Garden and the Sea talk about Israel’s demarcation, the situation for artists in Palestine and the political function of art

Between a Garden and the Sea celebrated its world premiere last week as part of the Vienna Independent Shorts Festival (VIS). It shows a young woman’s poetic journey from Palestine to the Mediterranean Sea in Israel. Director Ariane Laurin and screenplay writer Mai Simard spoke to about censorship in Israel, the obstacles for Palestinian artists and about to what extent art should be political. Your short film Between a Garden and the Sea celebrates its premiere tonight in the international competition Fiction and Documentary – what can we expect?
Simard: It’s a visual poem, based on excerpts of correspondence that I have been holding with people from Palestine. The whole movie is a bit of a collage. It’s a journey from a garden that’s located in the West Bank hills to the Mediterranean Sea. It portrays the stops and the confusion that comes with the checkpoints and the distortion of the territory. Did you experience the journey yourself?
Simard: The garden in the West Bank is where I was living for a while. The letters are taken from my first time in Palestine in 2011 until last year. I spent a lot of time in and out.
Laurin: The protagonist of our film is based on both of our experience as foreigners in Israel. We are neither Palestinian nor Israeli, so it’s the only point of view that is possible. The idea was to offer this film as a gift to Palestinians because many of them who are living in the West Bank are not allowed to go to the Mediterranean Sea.
Simard: From the garden you could see the Mediterranean Sea at clear mornings. Some people had the ritual of sitting and thinking how wonderful but at the same time fragmented the country is. The film is a way to make this journey and reunite the territory. Did you two meet in Israel?
Simard: We met in Montreal, but we got to know each other very well in Palestine.
Laurin: It was those trips that brought us to making this film. I was staying in East Jerusalem, which is Palestinian territory, and Mai was staying in the West Bank and so we would always cross the checkpoints and live both realities. To what extent is your film political?
Laurin: The personal is always political. (laughs) As Pasolini said, you cannot make a film that is not political. Politics are part of what we know, they dictate our lives in many ways. In Israel, whatever you do is political. What language you speak, what side of the street you walk on. What friends you have. Is it necessary as an artist to articulate political and social problems?
Simard: I think that there is no choice. Our movie, for example, is extremely personal but at the same time it is extremely political. There is no space to live outside the political.
Laurin: It was not an attempt to make a political film, but rather speaking of very personal experiences. The only way of changing people’s understandings is through compassion. If you manage to make people relate on a personal level, then maybe things will change. What changes do you want to evoke in the viewers?
Simard: I’m not sure if we have a direct message per se. We are not giving answers in the movie, it’s open for people to feel this thing that is impossible to grasp. The image we want to show is how people live under this reality. The resilience is more important than the despair or violence. How did you experience the demarcation in Israel during your stays?
Laurin: I lived on both sides of Jerusalem. Having friends on both sides and crossing every week, every day, was like seeing two different universes. It is a schizophrenic setting, like crossing from one country to another in a flash second by just crossing a street.

Part 2: Conditions for Palestinian Artists & Israeli Censorship

Cover photo: (c) Lukas Unger

Page 1 / Page 2


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