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6Qs with Writer-Director Annemarie Jacir //

byMarwa Helal


Annemarie Jacir’s Salt of This Sea is now playing in U.S. theatres — check out this interview with her and make sure you support this film in any, and every city near you!

City to Film: Jaffa
Soundtrack: Blood on the Tracks
Mango or Guava: Mango. Definitely.

1. You are a screenwriter and director — do you enjoy one role more than the other?
I came into cinema as a screenwriter. I have always written and I cannot do anything if I cannot write. It’s a craft I have great respect for. Later, I worked as an editor and cinematographer — and never thought I was interested in directing until I was in film school. There I discovered the great joy of working with actors and how much I truly love directing — which combines all these elements. I continue to work as a freelance screenwriter for other people — writing scripts other people will direct. Everything is connected but everything is so different from each other and I enjoy it all.

2. Is there one particular actor or film that made you want to pursue this career?
No, there isn’t. There have been countless films, actors and directors who made me think of pursuing this career.

And more than that, there are poets, musicians and artists who helped me move forward and keep going.

3. How is SALT received differently in the U.S., Europe and the Middle East?
Salt of this Sea had a great reception in the Middle East and Europe. We’ve had a theatrical release in Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Greece, India, Turkey, Holland, etc, and France where it stayed in the cinemas for four months. So the response was much better than I expected. The DVD release was also very good.

I went to an illegal DVD shop in downtown Amman and asked for the film. The guy didn’t know who I was but he gave me a copy and said it was his # 1 selling film. I asked him who directed it and he said ‘I don’t know. I think Suheir Hammad or Saleh Bakri but there’s this other strange name on the DVD — Annemarie — but I don’t know if that’s a man or a woman. I heard it was a woman.’

But these days, I’m especially excited about the U.S. release of the film! It’s been a long time coming! The U.S. has always been a much harder place for my films and the kind of work I am doing. I take it as a compliment. I mean, what else can I do?

4. What does SALT mean to you?
Salt of this Sea is the most difficult and most important project of my life to date. It means so much to me on so many different levels. The fact that the film exists is a miracle in many ways. It’s salty, it’s birth, death and continuation in the sea, and it’s ours.

5. Do you mind sharing the obvious obstacles in shooting SALT in Palestine?
It took five years to find the funding for the film and even in the end we did not complete our budget. We were forbidden from filming in 80% of our locations. Our cast and crew were denied permissions to move about. We applied for permits for the West Bank crew to leave Ramallah – every single one was denied. I was even forbidden from filming an aerial shot because they told me I have a “security issue.” And later I was refused permission to return to Palestine entirely — so the film was completed in France. I tried to make the film the “right way” — asking for permits, etc. But when so much was denied,

we had to make a decision — either we don’t make the film or we go ahead and do it sort of guerilla style. In fact, it’s a little like the film itself — Soraya tries to get her family’s money out of the bank legally, but when she is met with refusal…well, sometimes you just have to take things into your own hands.

6. What is your favorite song on last month’s FEN FIVE?
I never heard Mashrou’ Leila before and I love it. Great stuff! I want to hear more. But I gotta answer your question and Omar Offendum is not only a friend but he’s got something special — he’s smart, he’s fun, and he’s good. I’m loyal.

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