Human Rights Watch FF 2015 Women Directors: Meet Tamara Erde – ‘This Is My Land’

nullTamara Erde is a French-Israeli filmmaker
living and working in Paris. She often deals in her work with political
and social issues focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Her works mixes
her personal and imaginary reflections with a documentary approach accompanied
by profound research on the selected themes. (HRWFF website

"This Is My Land" will premiere at the 2015 Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York on June 15. 

W&H: Please give us your description of the
film playing.

 

TE: Nelson
Mandela once said that education is the only power to change the world. 
But what if
we look at it from the other direction? Can education also be the only power to
not change the world? To preserve a situation, a status quo?


For me, this is a fundamental question regarding the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict — how does the Israeli education system control the narrative of its
national history and the history of the conflict? And how does the Palestinian
education system try to deal with complex questions of identity after years of
occupation? 


W&H: What drew you to this story?

TE: A few years after graduating, I confronted different
narratives and started to understand how partial and selective the history about my country that was taught to me in school was. Having been born and raised in
Israel, I was educated in the Israeli system from the time I was a small child ’til I finished high school and went into the army. It was only later, during
my mandatory army service, that I started doubting and questioning the facts,
history and values that I was taught in school.

During my
army service, which was during the Second Intifada in 2002, I saw up-close the
Israeli army’s methods in the operations  against the Palestinians. This
was, for me, the first blinking red light. But a few more years were needed for
me to be able to realize how fully I was blind and ignorant as far as my
knowledge about the “other side” and the history of my country and [region].


Several years later, as I was working on a number of projects
related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Israeli society, I found myself
wondering why I had never doubted [what was taught to me during my childhood]. How come I — and
the large majority of Israeli youngsters ’til today — was so motivated to go
into the army? [Why had] I never met a Palestinian face to face? [Why did] I know nothing
about 1948 and the consequences of Israel’s creation for the Palestinian people?
This, of course, brought me back to my school days.

In this film I chose to come back and look at this education and the
system behind it, from my point of view today, after I chose to move away from
Israel and create my films and my work in relation to the Israeli history from
afar — [after I chose] to become a permanent outsider to what used to be my
homeland.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in
making the film?

TE: There were a few significant challenges
while working on the film. The main one was facing the censorship of the
ministry of education and obtaining the right to film the teachers I wanted in
classes, even if [I’d] criticize the formal way of teaching and the
curriculum.

Apart from that, there was also a personal
challenge: to try and remain balanced, to try to leave anger, fear, prejudices
that I had — like anyone else who grew up in a conflict zone — as much as possible
outside the editing room, outside the film, and keep an observational, curious
and open perspective [instead]. For me this was the first and most important goal when
starting the film. 

W&H: What do you want people to think about
when they are leaving the theatre?

I want people to recall that even when it
seems that conflicts are permanent and unsolvable, they can always be
solved. And there’s always a new generation to come that doesn’t necessarily
need to be carrying the past generations’ traumas, fears and pain. This can be
obtained through education for tolerance, for accepting different views and
stories other than one’s own. Education can and should make change, and
it is for us to use it in that way and to keep on insisting on that.

I also want people from different places, living
in peace or war, to think about the fact that their history books and
curriculum, the ideas, facts and stories they are or were being taught in
school, are always partial, subjective and in many cases manipulated, to make
them think in a certain way, based on political interests and national
preferences and biases. I’d like people to continually question what they are
being told and taught.

W&H: What advice do you have for other
female directors?

TE: The main thing would be not to be
thinking of oneself as a “female director,” but as a director and that’s it — a director
that has the same and equal talent, sensibility, power and vision as a male
director. She should thus be concentrating only on her vision and film and
ignore any outside judgment or discriminating ideas or remarks.

W&H: What’s the biggest misconception about
you and your work?

TE: What’s most misconceived about
my work is when it’s classified immediately according to background and some
personal definition of me as a person, and “tagged” as so. For example, I’m a
Jewish, Israeli-French, female director. It doesn’t mean that all my films necessarily represent those identity elements or speak on their behalf. I
prefer my films to remain on their own, open to each person’s identification
and interpretation, than to have them attached to a certain cause or group.

W&H: How did you get your film funded?  Share some
insights into how you got the film made.

TE: The film was made through several
funding sources and different means. First, there was a TV channel in France,
France3 Via Stella, who believed in the idea and the film and gave us the
ability to kickstart [the project]. Then Tatiana Bouchain, a French producer who was with
the film from the beginning, and who fell in love with the idea and vision I
had and believed the film was worth taking
chances on, even when we weren’t
sure we’d have the budget. It was the first film she produced independently, and
she put some of her own finances behind it to get it made. Later, the French
cinema fund the CNC and the German fund Grant Brot Für
die Welte came on board.

A leading post-production studio in Paris, Saya, joined in as the
film’s production company and financed the whole post-production and, later on,
supported the film in various ways.

The film was also developed with the support and tutoring of the
Greenhouse program for Mediterranean cinema, and a TV version cut was enabled due
to the support of the BBC Arabic channel.