Noticias Festival
Interview with Ameer Fakher Eldin, director of ‘The Stranger’

“The sounds of the shelling against the landscape of the Golan Heights has created a very strange sense of living”

The political tension of a historical territory like the Golan Heights. The portrait of a character who is a stranger in his own community. The inner war of a man who wants another life. With these elements, Ameer Fakher Eldin makes a powerful update of Albert Camus; work in The Stranger, in which the camera beautifully captures a familiar setting while describing the aftermath of half a century of occupation.- What were you trying to evoke if so through the use of fog and smoke throughout the movie? I do not like to explain or give my own interpretations about the film. But I can say that fog and smoke were used to motivate the characters and expose their stormy souls.

– Ochre color predominates over the chromatism of the movie. Is this how you perceive the Golan Heights?

This choice was made to visually enhance the emotional aspects of the film. Every color has a specific wavelength of energy that can represent or symbolize a
particular emotion. I don't necessarily demand the audience to understand the meanings of these colors, but rather to sense it. I believe that the meanings of k

– The cinematography is gorgeous, with many pictoric references. How did you work on it with Niklas Lindschau?

Before all, Niklas is a great artist, who knows well how to mirror emotions using light. This is essential. On the other hand, I wanted the film's imagery to flow by astatic visual rhythm. The visual patterns, esthetics and compositions are key elements in my creation. For example, I would spend two days preparing to film a single long take, and due to the preparation, usually only a single take was needed.

-When your main character decides to take in the wounded soldier in the Syrian war, he does not take into account which side of the conflict he belongs to. What does your film tell us about respect for human life and dignity regardless of creeds, ideologies and even acts?

It is true. I see his character as a composite of many reflections. All these acts come from a human being who appears to be hopeless, but in reality he is full of
hope, and his relationship with this wounded man and his insistence on treating him without even asking him about his name aim to reflect the world we must
dream of especially in recent times. When there is a raging storm outside your house and you hear a knock on the door and you open to see someone who has been drowned by the stormy gale in front of you… You throw a blanket on him before asking for his name or where he camefrom.

-How important was it for you to underline the contrast between the beautiful landscapes of the Golan Heights and the sound of the nearby war?

Since the outbreak of the Syrian revolution in 2011 we were only hearing the sounds of war without seeing it. The sounds of the constant shelling against the
breathtaking landscape of the Golan Heights has created a very strange sense of living. However, in this film my aim was to embody the nature of a place by using it
and not copying it as it is, I seek to give it diagnostic dimensions to simulate the world that I’m trying to create around a human figure.

-What’s the role of the concept of nostalgia in your film?

When we talk about this character, whose name is Adnan, who lives in the shadow of an existential crisis, I see him not only as a tragic hero, but as a nostalgic hero as well.When nostalgia is often oriented towards the past, in the case of Adnan, nostalgia is directed towards the future. He longs for a home that never existed before.  This is the state of isolation, alienation, and the deepest loss that a person can go through. It is the same situation in which the Golan Heights lives itself, with its geo-political dimensions, but in the state of a dream, a dream of a magical homeland. This is how I wanted to embody hope, for within the reality in which we live, we still have hope for a magical reality or homeland.

-The title of the film refers both to the fallen soldier and to the protagonist, who doesn’t feel at ease in his own village. Is it a metaphor of the place itself: occupied, lost and displaced?

There’s something in what you’re saying, once again, I refuse to impose my interpretation on anyone, the viewer must be free to interpret something like that
to himself or not.

-Your film depicts the inner conflict of a man who desires a life different to the one his father tried to impose on him. What’s the weight of tradition, inheritance and expectations in the Arab contemporary society?

Generally, I prefer not to draw inspiration from personal experience, that does not attract me as much as making a film about my future fears, from there I draw
inspiration or ideas, and refrain from thinking about my past experiences. The world I created in the film does not reflect the nature of the place or its political
problems only, but rather uses this nature to give it diagnostic dimensions and endow it with spatial characteristics that mimic the flaming spirit of the main character. The film can be thought of as a collage of feelings that I tried to focus on highlighting them all, and by that I mean that even my use of what was personal,
was a use of feelings, not experiences; For example, my father did not work in the field of medicine despite his studies, for various reasons unrelated to the film, and
spending seven years learning something and not being able to practice it creates a strong feeling of frustration, especially in patriarchal societies that are punished
based on their expectations. That frustration attracted me as an observer, and that frustration is present in the film only as a feeling, not as an identical experience
between Adnan and my father. I was clear that I did not want to make a biography, but rather wanted to study the character through the film and follow its
development; This means that I do not fully know my character, such as not knowing the reasons that prevented Adnan from completing his studies. I do not
like the literary or cinematic approach that depends on the causal plot, but I prefer literature that deals with the effect rather than the cause, and in which the
narration is a study of the personality. That’s what you find in Kafka’s novel Metamorphosis (1915) for example. Kafka does not explain why Gregor Samsa, the
main character, suddenly becomes a cockroach, but rather tracks the character and studies its development. This is also principled, i.e. the study of personality
development through action rather than knowledge of it fully. Perhaps this is a bit of an existential trend. I may not know what motivates Adnan to do or not do
something somewhere, and I am reconciled with the fact that there are certain things I do not understand about him, so I put him in certain situations to
understand his behavior and study it.

-Adnan is fond of his family apple orchard and the soldier is attached to a tree in a picture. What’s the symbolism of the roots and the plants in your film?

When you write poetry, you pick out the words and the weight. Not necessarily rhymed, looking for sensation and value and not just tone, and I think that the creation of a moving image have to go in a similar state. I am not a speaker, and I do not excel in the written word nor consider myself a writer. Give me a paper and a pen, I will not know how to write my feelings, I only write for film because the processing of movement, image and sound is itself the way i observe life. I do not like to give interpretations to scenes or shots, one must detach himself from the image after making it, it is not for me anymore but for the audience, and I consider this as an act of respect. The use of apples, earth or water flooding on soil, is a poetic approach, it is not enough to have a symbolic vision, but it must be supported by a cinematic language in which a certain pattern is formed repetitively to encourage the viewer to re-construct the narrative, in which he is asked to become a participant by probing his or her own psyche onto the film.