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Ahamad has seen war, he has lived a protected life, but amidst war and being a Palestinian living and growing up in Saudi Arabia and Palestine and then migrating to Germany has brought a feeling of mixed culture. But watching his film Ayni that won the Student Academy Award and two 016 gives a strong feeling of rooted emotions of love, longing and wholeness. I immediately fell in love with the short animation film and wanted to know where was this philosophy stemming from and what has made another beautiful short film called House and is in the post office third short film Goldeneye.
It also works in this advertising agency called TBWA Germany. Enjoy this conversation from the heart.
Hi, Amanda. Welcome to our podcast, The Artists, and thank you for joining in from Germany. But, you know, as we were discussing, you're actually a Palestinian who has been brought up in Saudi Arabia, who now lives and works in Germany. Am I right? Yes, exactly. So let's bring in Saudi Arabia, Palestinian, and most of my life, I have Jordanian passport and Palestinian I so it's very difficult to say where I come from.
Yeah, it's all complicated. So you have got your Palestinian culture with you. You've got your Saudi Arabian culture with you, and now you've got the Germany culture with you all coming together to make you the person that you are. Yes, that's for sure, that's a bit of a mix, it's a mix. OK. OK, but before I dissect the mix, I just want to tell you that absolutely loved Ironi, which is which I think means the second I and and the love, the philosophy behind the film.
And of course, the film won the Students Academy Award and two zero one seven for the short film, the short animation film. So tell me tell me, Emma, in terms of all of this coming together of. Where are your stories coming from? Well, the other said to me, like for me, like like is the existential issue, what are the stories?
And of course, just to quickly add in a bit for our listeners, that, of course, you're a filmmaker from three different nationalities, but you are working also in advertising and TBWA Germany. So quite a quite a bit of mix there. Yes, this is so actually OK. So coming to the question about the stories. Yes. I need the one you mentioned that actually means my eye and my I would say this for our lives, you we say like I would say this for my my my wife, for example, my my lover, I would say I just fixity an expression of love.
In English translated to my second eye, because these are the stories of two boys where one of one of them will become the eye for the other and the other and vice versa. This is where the story comes from. It is actually the stories that I told in all my terms. And can I the people that I met them reality. So somehow my life brought me to these characters and they witnessed their stories and. It is actually this journey to meet these people.
It summarizes also where I come from and where I was born and when where, because, as you mentioned, I was born in Saudi Arabia and this actually keeps me Palestinian, although I was born there. But being born in Saudi Arabia doesn't give me any statistic. And civil rights more than being a foreigner, having to have residency and reason to have residency in Saudi Arabia at the first I usually for most of the foreigners who live in Saudi Arabia, the first time, at least in my time there, that we cannot study university there.
So this is usually the time when we pack our stuff and go to study university somewhere else. And most of the time the place to be is to go home because it's the easiest to study our university at home, which is which is Palestine. Although I was there. And somehow it's for me like this is that was the place where I was born. Mm hmm. So so the thing is also actually part of the like the time when I was born was actually in the eighties, born in 1980.
Right. And if you know, in Palestine, the first intifada, which is the first rise that was in the 80s and the rise up in Palestine, it means like a huge protest from all the Palestinians that would be suppressed by the occupation. And this is because actually we call it thriver, but actually, like, if you look at it, it is really like a war situation. Every day will be tens of people killed and thousands of people protesting and tons of people trying to get the rights back.
The time it was called the stone dries up and because people rose up by throwing stones at the tanks and the soldiers that so they would just go and protest with stones by throwing stones against the military. OK. And this is what I witnessed as a child, seeing all these things in the news and and so so many images of this news, because my family would always look at the news because they're worried about their family back home. Yeah. So from my flexibility, like the specific images that I remember from this news then that made me somehow always think about these images and one of them and there was a policy of breaking the bones of the protesters by with stones, you know, is something I saw when I was a child.
I would see five, four. There's this image of five, six soldiers around, one person who has his arms and they break their bones with the stones. And it's very cool to see. And this is something I saw when I was a kid. So that stayed in your mind that macro's did in your psyche. And that is sort of because, of course, I and houseboats have a very strong, you know, war backdrop. It's got houses in it and it's got you the collapsing of houses.
I love that scene in any where, you know, houses are built on top of each other. I think it's it's beautiful. The whole imagery is beautiful. The whole thought process is beautiful. The philosophy behind it is beautiful. So so tell me, am I in terms of your life then why did you choose to migrate to Germany? Was it because of war? Actually, so maybe just to continue a little bit from that part. So what they missed and this was my childhood memories, and the thing is, when they went home to study university, my luck was to go just one year before the second.
You know, the one year was fine. They started studying university, me being, you know, the Palestinian from outside coming back home. And then one year after what I saw in my childhood happened in front of my eyes in reality. And the hole that was in the two thousand, the whole country became this like it was inside the TV from childhood, you know. And then all these all these stories that I saw when I was a child, I was living them in reality.
And that was part of the mine. I was next to the people who were receiving this injustice. And that actually gave me this dual image of all these things that I saw on TV every day, which I thought I follow very well. And I understand with the world and I feel very well. I realized when I'm inside that I realized this the I realized that there are so many layers of these stories that that even if you are following them every day, you know.
Yeah. You could not see at all and you will not even understand. They will not be. There are so many layers to the story of missing and meeting these people that I mentioned made me realize that. And that made me actually somehow feel the responsibility, not only the responsibility, but even then I then I was inspired to write these stories because there was really a lot of things that he's never told and the whole world thing that they know is happening somewhere with city.
And there's so much elements of the story that are missing. So many elements of someone. Yeah, someone someone is telling the story of these people. These people are not able to tell the whole story. So somehow this inspired me to write stories. That was the my my first reaction. I went to Palestine to study engineering, electronics engineering. I was this engineer studying physics and electronics and mathematics. At the same time. I was really learning a lot from life and what is happening around and the resilience of these people and the beauty experience that you see within these people and their still surviving mechanisms.
And that's really inspired me to feel that there's so much stories in these.
And I started to write stories as an engineer, you know that my sound effects of writing stories love when you started working on Knew and I love the kind of philosophy and the lines that you've used, and I especially your mother, there's a mother which I think comes from your mother, the influence of your mother, because the mother does that in both the films. So so in terms of the philosophy, do you do you sit and work on your thought process and writing the stories every day?
Like, for example, I even when, you know, when when you have this mother's character where she says that when everything was falling, she stood still. And you also have this philosophy that says, again, that be satisfied with what you have and the tree is not a tree and the sky is not tree. So is this philosophy coming from a Gaudron Roomi or from you? Where are you? When are you leaving and from. Actually, you shouldn't be surprised that someone who doesn't read at all, actually.
OK. It's really you know, I'm really engineering this since I was really loved in the square. I was only studying all the time. And so my my readings in literature and philosophy or theories, it is so actually it's almost zero. I think I just read three novels or five numbers in my life. But but the thing is, I you know, I think the reason why this comes also that I saw so much in reality. Yeah.
That I need to decode somehow inside me. And and somehow it came with the life experience that I feel there is so much to see in reality. And I don't know if books can really tell you much because like the amount of things that I saw in these five years, they are still living with me and I still trying to decode what I what they saw. This was a really long time ago when I was 20. I know this is now 20 years.
So did you see that point? Did you at that point write any diary or kept your notes about how you felt, what you were going through? I think it's interesting that you say that because actually this was an interesting I have to actually like one of the things that I started to do is I feel they have to right there every day. And I was writing everything I was writing at the time. Even if I went to a supermarket to buy a chocolate, I would buy sometimes I think the chocolate, the you know, the what is it, the red.
Yeah. And stability in this book. You know, I would leave the comment that that was the human thing, really everything. And sometimes some tears. I would I would take them with my finger and put and put ink on them that I remind myself that I was crying at this moment. Yeah. No, I was you know, I was nothing at this moment. So it was really like for me this this day. And I came back to it actually when I when I tried to leave, because I thought that 10 years after that, after it happened, I'm actually in this diary.
There was always I was writing some lines that are kind of poetic from what I see. And it's something but I at that moment, something that was so strong and I write it and I find these lines and from these lines like this is what what I did when I started to write the stories. Yeah, I went to my values and I found that, oh, I wrote this thing and I take it and I try to translate that story.
And this is how it came. I exited. So this really is my first reflection, which was when I went out of Palestine and went back to Saudi Arabia. It was my first chance to write some stories. And then when they came to Germany and Germany, the next thing is it's really like a place to to reflect because it's very quiet. Everything out there, you have so much time that are not wasted because everything you can really do things efficiently, you know?
And it happened to be that I found only a place in the cellar. The first time I came to Germany was very difficult to find a place very quickly. So I found a place in the cellar where there's no light in this. And that was really the place where I wrote most of my stories, actually.
Yeah. Yeah. Because it's it's it's good that you mentioned Amodio German because I think you must be feverishly writing in your journal because this kind of philosophy cannot just come like that. It has to be like on long, you know, long years of writing and, you know, getting it mixed in your consciousness until it finally sort of is ready to come out. And I think because you have people just in of your observations and suddenly it sort of got all mixed up and come up with these beautiful lines that you have used.
And I'm just total fan of your lines in the way you have read the philosophy. But tell me, in terms of you deciding to make the film you were already I if I'm not wrong, your rather than already doing the animation in Jordan and you were already working in Germany. So how did it also all sort of come together in terms of wanting to make a film? Of course. Did you write the script first, then what did you do in terms of, you know, executing that?
I see this actually in the beginning, I didn't know really how to tell the stories and first first thing, of course, came out of this like to to try to finish the book because I thought they finished it when I was twenty four. But actually, I realized that all these stories are still not solved in my head. And then I came back to each story. So in the beginning it started as I want to finish story book, and that was my project somehow.
But then I realized actually like if I read the book in Arabic and then until I could tell these stories to a lot of people, that that's to too small to have a limited medium kind of and and films. And actually, I started also doing photographs and then I was thinking of making photographs, kind of like a comic stories with photographs. But in the end, actually, while studying in Germany here, there was like the only class that I really was amazed by.
It was animation. And also like that actually we didn't do animation before. It was actually more that some people would read some stories. And those are the stories are animation and like, what does that mean? How do you know that this is an hands on this thing? It seems like animation. And then somehow that opened my eyes and telling I'm an engineer, I'm trying to find my way and art I like. So whenever I hear whatever, I kind of try to take and see.
And then actually so this is how it came like. So House was the first film was my my graduation present in my first semester. And so yeah, there's this story that I want to tell, and it is kind of the intro of all the stories which I wanted to symbolize the story of Palestine. So when you hear a story later, for me, it would be that it happened in that house, you know, and then I built it from this house to to the stories of people who are actually related to the house, you know, and and then it came to filmmaking because it was really a medium where you can spread.
We can people can watch it in different countries. And you don't have to be always with the film. And it's it's the best medium to tell the story and was. Yeah. And I mean, animation was the choice actually, because if it helps to really decode the reality in the way that it makes it closer to other people, because the reality as it is, is really difficult. That's why I realized it's very difficult. I still don't understand things that I said 20 years ago.
Yeah, yeah. When I show it to people, I want to decode it to them to make it actually simpler, to understand it and to actually to use the animation layers of getting out of the metaphysics and reality to help them see to the reality. And what about the funds?
Did you did you go around looking for funds or did you already have funds? And the first one was completely our effort. So it was the family as sisters and everyone. Yeah. So it was really like it was my graduation project. So the easiest was to go to Jordan with most of my family. And we tried to do it together. So somehow and it came. So all those are your brothers orphaned by the five names are your brothers or.
They are my siblings. They're all five. Twenty one. Yeah. Yeah, right. And then it's your mother and I want my daughters and it's beautiful here.
And I found it very touching. Yeah, that's right. And what about your father? Your dad. Father, actually, father was was one of these people who had six kids, you know, so he was working most of the time and the father actually, like he in this family, didn't work. So I wanted to be honest, I didn't want to put the father. He didn't do any good. But the father definitely I mean, he studied philosophy and and the philosophy and psychology.
He worked in the newspaper. So actually, if there is if there's someone who really inspired us to write and to and to to kind of see the philosophy of life, it would be him, really, although he was very quiet person, he doesn't say much. How does the culture work?
And right now, in in the place where your parents are, Jordan, how does it work? Is it like an open culture film, something that sort of is encouraged as a profession?
So actually, again, like this, when we say culture, for me, it's difficult to say which one of them, because my parents stayed in Saudi Arabia until until they like really lately. And so in Palestine, Palestine was ah, it was it was it was a practical existence. So if we come back, if our culture is the Palestinian character, there was a lot of writers, there was a lot of a lot of songs, a lot of, you know, all these values and kind of this oppression that comes to people.
So it was a resistance from from some people. And there's oppression in that. And film, actually. Let me be like Palestine's very small, but the themes that comes out of actually a really strong symbol and there's a lot to learn from these all these Palestinians, because I think most of the directors, companies that they have delivered this nomadic life, also nomadic life, must be like small films and lesser amount of films that.
Yes, that yeah, they're still flourishing in terms of the culture. Right. In terms of the film culture. And is the theater industry an art form is flourishing there. At the end, there was also something part of the culture, especially like in the same situation, and that actually there's like Palestine is very small. That's something we and it's also part of why maybe there's not much seen from that place because it is a small place. And, you know, your parents know.
Actually, my birth parents give me your life, so they're like, sorry, we say this in this way. My parents, my birth parents passed away, so they they lived until almost the end in Saudi Arabia. And then they came to Jordan and they passed away. My father five years ago and my mom two years ago. So, yes. And but actually speaking about are still so my parents would be the ones trying to tell us that the arts, because still in that area, like, it's still it's like a second kind of man and not that basic thing to to study someone I know I'm coming from.
When you won that student Academy Award and two zero one seven four, I was one way of folks aware about it. Where was your country of about it? And it actually wasn't twenty sixteen, but this is just a number and but so actually the thing and somehow yes, but because it was I was studying in Germany, it was announced as like in German kind of school. OK, so it wasn't like Palestine. Actually, I was surprised.
There are so many registered stations that talk to me and they said they wanted to do the views and to know Jordan. Somehow it was slow until they got to the news. But actually speaking about that, I remember now you asked me also my family are satisfied with what we do and actually we do really love what they see and they are really passionate about helping and they care. And for them, I was actually scared to tell them I want to go to Germany to study art.
But actually it was it wasn't even discussing about study. Studying is nice. You know, that was my father said it was great, you know, just to study. And and of course, they said my father only saw house. He passed away while we are shooting in the city. And that was very difficult to deal with. But I remember this coming back from from the outskirts to my family in Jordan. My mom was really like the way she was looking at me, like I really remember how proud she was.
And then the next thing we felt that they were a lovely couple with my my niece was filming it and we still have it.
It was like, yeah, how nice. How did it change your life in terms of your profession and work as a film maker? And actually, I don't know if it really had an impact in any way, because maybe for me it's difficult to take the advantage of it because I write stories. That takes me really a long, long time to write. And so so the 2016 was kind of my momentum. There was the time maybe where I would just go and say, hey, I have a feature film now I want to do it.
And then maybe so many production houses will be willing to do it. From the time I was still trying to cut another short story, which is not the one I'm finishing now. Yes. And that's the two thousand sixty. And then I already have the story me. And the only time I felt I finished writing it was just into it. I was 18 and so so the momentum was really gung ho and I was still trying to finish to write another story and we got the funding for it and now it's almost finished.
It's actually it's kind of finished the way we could say now, like, what do you what do you what do you intend to do with a do you want to take it to the festivals or how how I put it out there. Actually, now, basically that they have three films, they have a house that night in and night. Yeah, I have I have two things that I want to do is the normal way, which is actually seem to get to festivals and that as we did for Iranian.
Yes. Yeah. But actually, when when I did sometimes some experimental screenings for I mean, where I, I don't show only the film, but I stand in front of you as a storyteller and they tell you stories and I take you to a story and tell a moment where the film would start, you know, so it's kind of my journey to that little moment where it is the beginning of the film. And then I let the film speak and then I come back and continue the story that I started before.
No. So this actually was an experimental way. But I also mean my presence there telling the stories like the sound of reality somehow. And then I give the film the chance for people to see another level of magic realism. And then I bring them back to the realism and I found really interesting combination of the two. So what I would really now love to do is that I have three and then these three films I did one already. I tried one experiment for the three films together here in Germany as a private screening to test night and to the performance to take people through a story.
And then every film will come into us and a specific point of the longer script. And actually it's not scripted. I tell real stories, but so in the longer story, the films become part of the story that I'm seeing. So this is something I'm really and now I would put on my interest to do because this is really these stories. You know, I had so much inside me. So a lot of these stories I didn't even say with anyone because it's like I have these characters I hide.
I don't want to say the things that are so difficult to other people. And so I hide, I hide. And now finally I reach the point where I can see these stories and I feel it's really good time now to really do something. And I started actually to talk to them, to talk about it, maybe like with some distributors and there's the two to allow me to actually do such performance.
And I think that's interesting and I think that's interesting. I think Germany will give you a lot of opportunities as well, something which is something lacking in Asian countries. But tell me, what kind of part of advertising did you bring to your stories and what advertising actually did for me? Advertising. I see it as functional art and functioning art, but it runs in your family. It's a family profession.
Yes, I know. But for me, I think it fits for me and my brothers because somehow, even like my one of my brothers product design and the other one studied graphic design, but we functional art because whether I mean what I mean with that is that it's an art that shouldn't have a function. It doesn't mean you cannot do it just without a like a very clear function somehow, you know, it has to function otherwise.
I think for me it's because I again, can be an engineer. You know, I will not do something that doesn't have a function. And it's to buy logic somehow. And that's why I like it. Guys like you do it and you see the impact of it somehow. If it works or not, then if it sells or not and all that. So this is the product of advertising that that I think also like when they write this story, it's the same for me, is like I either write the story to make it somehow just because I feel like I want to say it, you know, where I want to express or for me expression it is of course I'm expressing something.
But but I still feel if I tell a story, it's really neat to have a function in a specific function that I want I want to achieve somehow. And I tried to put a goal for myself. I want to achieve this with this film and I try to. That's why it gives them more, even energy to work on these films after I finish them and so on.
Once again, you're saying that you put a goal with every film. I mean, can you elaborate on that? So, you know, someone can can can control in a filmmaker, can sort of benefit out of it in terms of how do you put a goal to it? Like what do you what do you write? OK, my film is going to win the next Academy Award and Zero 016 wasn't that hard. Definitely no.
I was like, it's funny when you don't want the words they come to you. So yeah. I mean in advertising usually we have this mentality. We want to do a. Work, I would work because it is part of advertising, it makes them the same for the for the piece that you do, but I actually like it. First of all, it's really dislike what they wear. They explained the beginning, like being in these stories and realizing that that they thought they know these stories, but then realizing how foreign these stories look.
To me, there was this is the first one is really to no offense, like to know that actually we don't know anything we can we can even claim that we know everything about everybody, you know, and bringing these stories into that level, I think at least it should bring this question to us like that. It's is not true even even in, because actually that's why against news so much now, because people say, yeah, but you need to watch news to know.
But then I'd say that's the thing. That's the problem. We believe news as a source of news, as a source of knowledge, that knowledge. But news is another source of knowledge. And especially if you if you go into the kitchen, you know, and you want to prove one fact, you need to have so much resources and so much resources and you claim one fact. And this is but this is not how people deal with the real human stories.
We just sit in the screen and then that's it. We make our judgment and we think we know it. Then we think we are involved. But actually, we are not involved. We don't know anything. We're so far away from it. And the fact that we think we know is what brings people distance from each other because they really feel that they have done what they have to do, know we are involved, we sympathize, and but that's nothing actually doesn't change.
And I will keep things running because actually not knowing in this case is better. If you don't know and you feel that you are guilty, that you don't know, it will give you another kind of motivation to know. But believing that I know because I just watch the news. So this is the girl the man had. The biggest goal for me is to really bring the stories to a closer to you to see something that you would never see in news or in in books or any any source of knowledge that we know.
I know. And other than that, yeah, I know each story somehow like House for me was the goal is to bring the general image of Palestine to people in a way that they will understand. That is the basic logic, because a lot of people say it's very complicated what's happening in Palestine. And I wanted to simplify it, say no. Actually, it's less complicated. That's just this and this and that and simplify it the way I like this.
I took my mom's logic, how she used to teach us things that we can't understand, those you just make drawing and say, this person is this house and this thing is that. And then she could just say symbols because she realized that we are we are not really a numbers oriented kids. I really I used to symbolize the mystery. And that's that's a lovely analogy. That's that's great. That's a great anecdote. And I'm going to sort of take hillstrom from some questions where you just have to answer in one word.
This is like, OK, the fun part off of the podcast. And also for our audience to know you slightly better. So tell me, what is filmmaking for you? One word. Storytelling tell me when everything falls and you know, you cannot find a way through any situation. What do you do? I think I think, OK, what are the films or the books. You always go back to. So what are the what are some films or one film or one book that you always and of course not book because you hardly read.
So one of the films that you always go back to. The cells that I. And this is how it is. OK, OK, if you if you would not if you were not a storyteller, what would you be? Many. Must be something else, there must be another plan. And in general, a farmer, not an engineer.
You look lovely, lovely and well, thank you so much for your time. Don. I hope you have a great Sunday. No. I hope you guys enjoyed this episode, this was our first episode with someone who has come from, you know, a war zone and tells stories related to war and we are so grateful that and take our time and be part of this podcast.
One big takeaway that I get from this episode is observing life closely. You might not be a great watcher of films or you might not be a great reader, but if you document the life closely every day, every moment of it, everything is going to get churned in unconscious and will suddenly erupt as the stories that you would want to tell from your perspective. And of course, am a great love for his own parents, his father and his mother.
So this last bit of recording that we're going to be adding in this podcast is when I ask him about his father, who later tells me that he did not have the right words to describe what he felt for his father.
And so he sent us the separate recording, a WhatsApp recording that he shared with us on the email. I hope you enjoyed this heart touching, poetic anecdote.
My father, my father. He's. The interesting thing about the father was that he, uh, actually it's really strange to me to discover this, but, um, I spent the last days of his life, uh, next to him. And actually, uh, so he was in this situation where he sometimes unconscious, sometimes conscious, sometimes, uh, while he's unconscious, he would speak. Poems and these actually were really surprising for me to hear them, especially in Arabic, actually, so they, uh, we would speak to each other in our, uh, our dialect, in the Palestinian dialect, but.
All of a sudden, I would start speaking, uh, traditional Arabic, uh, accent. Uh, language, and he would actually say poems, and that was interesting to see that in his subconscious in in that very difficult pain that he was going through before dying. He would speak, uh, like, I dunno, for me was like magic, he he would just speak in traditional Arabic as if he had another person inside them. Um, one thing that really, um, touched me a lot from from these poems that he was saying and.
Uh, it was actually, I think just one day or two days before he died and, uh. He started say. In Arabic without translated to English. It's start to say, this guy, this guy. And I would repeat this guy, this guy. The sky is water. Where are you, my friend? The donkey. Take me to the sea. Fly me to the sky. It was really touching to hear it, because he is his soul is is calling a friend.
That is a daunting. A flying dog. And in his eye, he's seeing the sky turning to water and he wants this tokita to take to the sea to take him to the sea. And to fly him to the sky. It was really. And in a very gentle way, his way kind of, you know, to to say something, to say good bye, maybe to me or to to whatever was seeing around him at that moment.
To say in this indirect way that, uh, that it's time to me to go and I want the doctor now to come to take me to this country. I think he had the poem inside and. And, uh, put it inside the. That maybe he didn't unleash due to his duty as a father all this time. Uh, raising six kids and. Being busy with his, uh, this is, uh, most of his life and, uh, and and work and so on.
It was the silent. And silently, like I when I see it for me, I call him the silent killer because it's really mostly silent, very intimate with when he said something. You think it. Ethereally. There's a lot. And these little things that he's had. It really feels so much gabs that we, uh. The gaps that where we don't hear is always the.