British-Palestinian Filmmaker Basil Khalil Uses Humor To Understand Strife In A Gaza Weekend [Exclusive Interview]

I was at the premiere here at the festival. The crowd was so great, so reactive. How did that feel?

This is the right place to show this film, because it’s a crowd pleaser. It’s not a high concept, arthouse, preachy film for upper middle-class intellectuals to talk about and signal their wokeness through caring other people’s misery. I would say the film tackles difficult subjects, but it’s done in an approachable way and also entertains you for 90 minutes, right? It’s a struggle enough getting a movie in the cinema when you’re up against the streamers and big Marvel movies. But I’ve always wanted to entertain people, so I hope whenever people go back to the cinema, or wherever they watch it, they feel that it’s not a 90 minutes wasted or a 90-minute lecture.

I was thinking while watching the film that this might be a lot of Canadians and Americans first introduction to Palestinian people who are not suffering and crying or militant and menacing. This might be the first time they see people in Gaza just doing their jobs, making money, laughing, raising kids.

Which is embarrassing that we have to make a movie to show normal people. But I also understand that this is the world we live in. You know, everybody’s got their bubble and their life, and it’s the loudest voice that gets the attention, and at the moment, we Palestinians are not the loudest voice. I was also inspired by “Get Out” and “Nope” and how they were genre, they were entertaining films, had very strong subject matter, with a very clear issue to tackle, but that wasn’t what the film was all about. Like, I walked out of “Nope” just blown away by the artistry and the storytelling. People feel it, they feel when you’re preaching to them, and they get that for free from the news, right?

Right. And obviously, there isn’t a lack of films being made in Palestine or by Palestinians, and so often what you get is these depictions of misery and suffering. Where does that come from? Is that Western buyers only being interested in those films? Festivals not programming other kinds of films?

There are so many factors. I don’t know all of them, but I do know, like I have my colleagues who make movies and some of them are cheerful and some of them are painful, and it’s because the trauma hasn’t ended. That’s the thing about Palestine — the trauma endures. So either artists have this burning fire to share, to get people to look at the injustice that’s happening — and that is valid and should happen and should be documented — and there are others, like me, who come from a mixed heritage. So my mom’s English and Irish, my dad’s Palestinian, and I can look at it from the outside, let’s say from a Westerner’s point of view, who doesn’t want to go to the cinema to feel guilty. It’s a very colonial mindset. Like, “We made a mess, we don’t want to talk about it.” But I have that privilege of being able to sort of distance myself from the weight of the baggage of the collective trauma that’s still ongoing.

My co-writer [Daniel Chan] is not from there, he’s Portuguese, Chinese, and British. So he was also able to tell me, “Okay, this joke or this scene or this guy is too local. Let’s make it understandable. I want to get at this issue. How do we get there?” So I was able to keep the Palestinian sense of humor so that other Palestinians could laugh at it and find it funny and entertaining and see themselves in it, and a foreigner who has no idea could find another avenue and a different gag, but also understand the message.

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