INTERVIEW: with Marcus Vetter by Ai Horio
On October 9, 2009, I attended the annual Film Festival of UNHCR at Goethe-Institute Japan in Tokyo and saw “The Heart of Jenin” . Mr. Marcus Vetter made a speech on the stage after the show and I had a opportunity to talk with him. I later made a long telephone interview with him.
Q How did you start this film?
Marcus Firstly, it wasn’t my idea to make this documentary film. When the producer came to me and asked if I can join this film making project, there was already an Israeli director, Lior Geller who wanted to shoot the film enthusiastically. At the beginning, he couldn’t find the financier for the film. At that time, it was 2005, nobody was interested in this story in Israel. So he came to Germany, trying to find the sponsor. Finally he found the financier after two years’ stay in Germany. From the outset, I was very interested in working together with a Jewish director on the Palestine issue, partly because of my German historical background.
Q The co-director, Mr. Geller, where does he live at present?
Marcus He lives in Israel. He is an Israeli American.
Q What has changed your life after your first visit Palestine?
Marcus Well, this really had changed my life. When I first went to Israel. Everybody told me “you shouldn’t go to Jenin, it’s too dangerous, and you’ll be killed or kidnapped”. I also met many journalists and they said the same things. Of course, for shooting this film, I had to go to the West Bank and Jenin. When I arrived, it was totally different from what I was told in Israel. People are very nice and they spend their lives normally. At once, I decided to live in Jenin.
Q Even journalists didn’t have precise information about Palestine!
Marcus Very bad and wrong reputation about Palestine is made up by journalists who make one-minute, two-minutes news stories. They don’t know what is really happening. Through the film I sent my message all around the world, “Don’t believe the news and journalist.” You have to come to Palestine and see with your own eyes. Come to the West Bank. Don’t be scared. It is not Afghanistan. It’s not the most dangerous place in the world. It’s not the land of death. Jenin is a ordinary town where people actually live very peacefully. When I arrived at Jenin, I said to myself immediately, “I will stay here and extend my hand to the people in this city.”
Q In your movie, we, the audience meet various people, Palestine, Israeli, Non-Christian or Christian.
Marcus While I was shooting the film, I tried to meet as many people as possible and ask how do they feel, including two rather unusual families, a Palestinian Bedouin family and a Jewish Druze family. And also I wanted to know about what happened in the hospital. Raymond, a nurse in the hospital, and Raymond, a Christian Arab, and they were dealing with the situation in a very proper way. It was not Israel’s decision to donate his transplanted organs. He was asked to do so nicely by a nurse, an Israeli Arab nurse who is Christian Israeli.
Besides, there are also other children who need an organ. By portraying and interviewing all these people, and by letting all of them speak, you will get an idea about the people. I also made an interview with the Mufti, and Zakaria Zubeidi who is the head of the Al Aqsa brigade,
I think this is how you should make a movie, let everyone speak: Israeli, the Bedouin father, the kids, Jerusalemi, etc. And then the audience can judge how the people speak, how they react, and then they will find out how these people are.
Q Now I understand why this movie is so successful.
Marcus It is successful because we teach that we all have prejudices against Arab people. But in this film you see Bedouin father who tells that there is a possibility all the time that his house will be a destroyed. And when he tells it that nothing is laughing, He is smiling. So he tells all about something very problematic and the dramatic possibility that his house will be destroyed. The Jewish Druze family, they are crying and saying they want to meet the family. The nurse, the Christian nurse, Raymond who is explaining in such a nice way what happened to Israel himself. The Mufti Muslim who gives very clear the message that these organs can be the donated originally from a religious perspective. Even Zakaria Zubeidi says, Ismail you can do that, you can go this way of peace.
These are all Arabs! They are open, all part of a story of what happened. Of course, there is an orthodox Jewish father who hates so much this happening. These all happened randomly, we didn’t choose the people. The people we chose are part of the story. So then the audience suddenly realizes. Oh! I had a totally different opinion of Arab people. I thought they are violent, I thought they are terrorist, I overthought that they don’t want peace. But still, you don’t see people who are different. Everybody is different, so this is sensitive, the sensibility of the movie..
Q What do you think about communication between the Palestine donor and the: Israeli donee who accepted a transplanted organ?
Marcus How did it happen? First of all, it was very strange, When the decision, a Palestinian donateｓ an organ to an Israeli child, was made, suddenly a lot of Israeli Journalists dashed to the hospital. Normally the recipients of organs are anonymous, Israeli Journalists were overwhelmed by the unbelievable situation that a Palestinian father donates his organs to Israeli children, This exciting drama was shown on TV in Israel.The recipients of the received organs were Israeli: Israel.
Q Do you keep in touch with the people who appeared in the movie?
(Azan; the azan, the call to prayer, is made from a mosque’s minarets)
Marcus No, hardly not. Israeli people can’t come to Palestine and Palestinian people can’t go to Israel because of the wall. Israel people are scared to come to Palestine and they are forbidden to go to Palestine. The communication between them is very difficult. There is communication between the Jewish family and the Bedouin family. But, it’s also hard because Jewish people don’t want to go to Jenin. They are also scared to go to Jenin. It’s also difficult for the Bedoin family to travel to Israel. And they never met the Jewish orthodox family afterwards.
Q How many people saw your movie in the world? What is the future plan for your movie?
Marcus Well, this film travels a lot to International Festivals in the world. It was screened in South Korea, Amsterdam, London, Palm Beach, almost every city in the world. The audience is so interested in the Palestinian issue. We, Ismael and I are now renovating an old cinema in Jenin. So the story doesn’t end. A new theme is going on, and I have to tell you that it is very important for me that the Japanese audience and the Japanese companies’ support us.
This cinema shows the world that people don’t come to that place. Though many people come to Israel for holiday, they visit Dead Sea, Jerusalem, and the Lake Tiberius. Please come also to the West Bank, and come also to Jenin and meet the people to make your own idea of the situation.
But for ordinary people, this film is the only clue to understand Palestine issue. We need a projector and for workshop and making movie, so we need support from companies like Sony or Panasonic for workshops, projectors and camera equipments.
Q You need support for your movie and your NGO activities?
Marcus Yes, and also for the future of Palestine kids.
Q I heard your film impressed the Israeli audience.
Marcus The audience were so impressed for Ismael, the father and especially children, the students, school people. When we screened the film at the Jerusalem Film Festival, there was long standing ovation for Israel. Yes, even the film criticizes Israel and the war, Many Israeli people appreciated this film very much. At every festival, at every screening, this film created a great sensation among the audience.
This is a wonderful thing.
Q Was there any attempt from Israel government to prevent the movie from being shown to the public? What about Israeli reaction for this movie?
Marcus In Israel it was difficult to find a festival which we can make entry. At last, we screened the film at the Jerusalem Film Festival. And it was shown on TV, but only as a 60 minutes version.
Q How do you foresee the future course of the Palestinian conflict?
Marcus We can’t solve present situation. I feel the situation is getting worse. Might we be involved in another war again? I hope there is no further surge of the intifada . The Palestinian people do not want a surge of the intifada, they don’t want to fight with Israel further, but political forces are different. That is why we are standing here at Jenin in this cinema. We want Israeli people come to Jenin to see the cinema and meet Palestinian people. The peace has to be realized by the people, not by the governments.
In Israel and in Palestine there are a lot of people who want peace. But they have to meet and create and strengthen trust each other. But the existence of the wall! The wall prevents both people from seeing each other.
Q What do you think about the security wall built by Israel to keep Palestinians out of Jerusalem?
Marcus The wall might help to stop the suicide bombers. But, I said to Israel people
that you are not allowed to humiliate the people. We must respect the people, we respect the borders. This is the only thing I can say. Israel has to protect them the border with the wall. I can’t to deny it, but, please don’thatethe people.
Before the wall was built, Israeli people came to Jenin to buy things, The economy was good at that time. But after the wall was raised, the economy collapsed. So, why not right now some borders would open again and people would be allowed to come.
Palestinian people are now so desperate that more people go to Hamas. I heard Gaza is now much more aggressive against the wall than before. In the end the wall didn’t bring anything good to the peace process. It destroyed people there, it destroyed the peace process. It created an environment of war. I hope Israel will not attack Iran. If they will, it would be a horrible situation for the whole region here..
Q Can you tell me about your NGO activities? Who are the major sponsors?
Marcus Our major sponsor is the German government. Then the Goethe Institute. This is a German cultural institution. And then MAM, big German media company. And a lot of people are working here as volunteers. Air Berlin is sponsoring us with free 55 flights per month from Germany to Tel Aviv. Up till now, the source of money is German. By the way, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd made an album “The wall” and provided us 190.000 Dollars.
We also need all Arab world’s coming into this project, for finance. And also, what we need so much is the Japanese electric major companies like SONY, PANASONIC, and CANON. So we need camera equipment, sound equipments. And a lot of the media companies, for example JBL, they make loud speakers and the sounds system.
They can help us with their products. Young people here can make short film which can be screened at the theatre here. And then, we can bring the film to Europe or to Japan. And we can invite these young directors abroad and they would come back with new ideas and hope.
Q What is your future plan?
Marcus My future plan is to create an environment of film making here at the heart of Jenin, with a production company, a Jewish distribution company, some titling company, a synchronizationed studio, and a film school. We have to clean the land for cinema theatre and various small film businesses. It will create jobs and give hope and dreams to the people.
“The Heart of Jenin” is a very impressive film. The story is about a Palestine boy who was fatally shot by Israel soldiers in Jenin, a Palestine city located in the Northern West Bank. When the boy died a few days later, his father decided to donate his organs to an Israel girl. However, his family were strongly reproached by both Palestinians and Israelis. The film was co-directed by Marcus Vetter, German and Lior Galler, Israeli.
*You can read this article in Japanese.