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NEWSARTICLE

Gabriella Bier: Love During Wartime

Israeli-Jewish Jasmin and Palestinian-Muslim Osama are a real-life Romeo and Juliet unable to live together in their countries of birth. Meet the filmmaker and her subjects.

Love During Wartime

 

Tribeca: Tell us about Love During Wartime in your own words.

 

Gabriella Bier: Love During Wartime is a love story about the struggle of Osama [AKA Assi], a Palestinian-Muslim and Jasmin, an Israeli-Jew, who are a married couple unable to live together in their countries of birth.

 

Tribeca: What inspired you to tell this story?

 

Gabriella Bier:
I had been filming two other mixed marriage couples before Jasmin and Osama, and it was a while before I got to know them. My interest in this topic started with the outbreak of the Second Intifada. I was really getting upset because the hostilities in different camps, Palestinians towards Israelis and vice versa, were visible even in Sweden, where I live. I felt I had to act somehow. I got the idea of doing a film about mixed marriage because I’m part of mixed marriage myself, so I felt I had some insight to the cultural differences and difficulties you might encounter in such a constellation.

Tribeca: I understand you will be doing a panel at the JCC in Manhattan this week in conjunction with the film.

 

Gabriella Bier:
We will discuss the film and have the possibility to talk about it in a more in-depth fashion, and one thing we will be able to examine is the actual law that we touch on in the film [The Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law].

Tribeca: Have there been any updates on the law since you started making this film?

 

Gabriella Bier:
There was an amendment of the citizenship law.

Jasmin Avissar:
As part of the Oslo agreement, a law was created allowing for family unification of a mixed, Israeli/Palestinian marriage, and after the Second Intifada they froze the law and created the citizenship law, which prohibited the entrance of Palestinians into Israel even though they were married to Israelis. It’s had several adjustments since then but it started from there.

Gabriella Bier:
It was supposed to be a temporary law, but they have prolonged it every year up until now.

Jasmin Avissar:
And now it’s a real law, which has been ruled on by the Supreme Court, which is themost horrible thing.

 

Tribeca: How did you first find out about Jasmin and Assi’s story?

 

Gabriella Bier:
I met Jasmin’s parents first, and then I went to Ramallah and met Osama. One or two weeks later, we went to Berlin where we met Jasmin, who had already moved there.

Tribeca: How long did you film the couple for?

 

Gabirlla Bier:
I filmed Jasmin and Osama for 4 years, but prior to that I had filmed two other couples for 3 years who declined to continue filming.

 

Tribeca: What was it like for you, Jasmin and Osama, to have your story told on film?

 

Jasmin Avissar:
For me, the great thing about the filming process was that it was like drama therapy. The immigration process and everything we had dealt with in Palestine before we moved to Europe was very hard and very tense, and by sitting in front of the camera and having to answer difficult questions, I had to deal with things that I otherwise might not have dealt with in such an upfront manner. I didn’t feel that we were being filmed throughout production, because Gabriella’s work was not intrusive. The camera and crew blended in with our life. It was not artificial and we never felt like, “Ok we are being filmed now.”

Tribeca: How did you build trust with each other?

 

Gabriella Bier:
We talked about friendship a lot, and we became good friends, but I told them that I also needed to keep my distance in order to do things they might not like. Since finishing the film, we have continued to have a lot of contact with one another.

 

In a way, Jasmin and I had a lot of fights. There were a lot of things in our background that we didn’t agree on. That was really great, because we managed to open up about these issues, and we took time off of filming to just hang out and have a good time together. I was really interested in their relationship and the couple as individuals. Jasmin and Osama meant a lot to me and I really liked them. You have to find people you really believe in, and I felt immediately that we would become really close and mean a lot to each other.

 

Love During Wartime

Jasmin Avissar:
What was most important for me about this film is that it wasn’t about an agenda; it was about us. A lot of documentaries, especially those about Palestine and Israel, have large agendas behind them. They have something they are trying to prove, but this film was just about us. It was natural. We just had to live our lives and be ourselves and we could create this natural relationship with Gabriella. It was not about an external story.

 

Osama “Assi” Avissar: The media wasn’t dealing with our story the way we wanted. The news used us as a business model.

Jasmin Avissar:
The European media portrayed us this sweet romantic story when we had something serious to say. What we had to say about Israel and Palestine was always printed very openly, but if we had a comment about Europe or about our feelings as immigrants it was always edited out because they didn’t have an interest in us as immigrants. This made us very upset. We wanted to tell our story as immigrants, but they only wanted to hear about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict highlighted in our unique relationship. So our work in this film was very honest and personal.

Tribeca: What's the craziest thing (or “lightning strikes” moment) that happened during production?

 

Jasmin Avissar:
There is a scene that we had to erase, and it was an instance at a checkpoint when Gabriella was filming us having a big fight with a soldier. In the background of the footage, you can see a Palestinian being arrested, blindfolded and led into a Jeep.

 

Gabriella Bier: Another interesting moment was the scene towards the end of the film where Jasmin and Osama have an argument in a restaurant in Berlin. We thought we were just going to shoot the couple having a regular dinner, and it turned into a much more intriguing conversation.

Osama Avissar:
And Gabriella doesn’t even understand Hebrew [the language in which they are arguing during this fight].

Tribeca: So you didn’t understand the conversation going on in the restaurant at all while you were filming it?

 

Gabriella Bier:
I understood a little, but I had seen them argue a thousand times so I knew that they were fighting.

Jasmin Avissar:
It was an old fight. [laughs] It was nothing new!

 

Gabriella Bier: I understand very little Hebrew and no Arabic at all. The strange thing is that from the beginning of production, I had the opportunity to work with an interpreter, but I wanted the movie to be more like a fiction film, and not like a classic documentary. If I had used the interpreter, he or she would have been interrupting the filming all the time, and I felt that would have caused the film to lose the magic of reality.

 

I discovered very quickly that everything I shot with Jasmin, Osama and their relatives was great material. I didn’t know they were going to have this quarrel in the restaurant but on other occasions I would ask a question to a group of people and they would start talking about it. I could feel when it was good, and maybe I would interrupt after 15 or 20 minutes, and I must say the material I got in this film is the best material I’ve ever documented.

Tribeca: Gabriella, has this film made you reflect on your own marriage at all?

 

Gabriella Bier:
No, not really. In my case, I’m Jewish and my husband is Christian, and we don’t have this political dimension in our relationship. But there a lot of things I could understand about Jasmin and Osama’s experience because my family was against my marriage. But it hasn’t really affected my relationship.

Jasmin Avissar:
But in reverse, it has affected how we view and understand our marriage.
Mostly because Gabriella has more experience in her relationship. I learned a lot from her about my marriage. I learned how to deal with my partner and spouse, not so much in terms of being a mixed couple, just in terms of being a regular couple. Gabriella was a great friend and confidante in this aspect.

Tribeca: What would you like audiences to take away from the film?

 

Gabriella Bier:
When I was making the film, I thought a lot about the audience. Most likely they were going to be people who really think that a mixed marriage like Jasmin and Osama’s and reconciliation is something good. But ideally, I would also like to reach out to people who think that mixed marriage is wrong and that Israel and Palestine should be kept separate. I hope that if they see this film they might think differently, because they’ll see that this can actually work.

 

When I was in Palestine and Israel filming, people thought I was totally crazy. They became curious about my experience, and it really made them start thinking about what had happened in their country. So hopefully, this film can change some people’s views. I think if you really like the subjects of a film that it’s very hard to be glued to your ideas that you’ve had from the beginning. In reality, meeting people from the other side is the only way to change things. You don’t have to marry your enemy, but at least become friends.

Tribeca: What’s your advice for aspiring filmmakers?

 

Gabriella Bier:
If you really feel you have a story you want to tell, listen to other people, but never give up, just go ahead. Don’t look to the side, just follow your own ideas.

 

Tribeca: And that’s exactly what you [Jasmin and Osama] did.

 

Jasmin Avissar:
All the problems around relationships are external and they come and they go. What you are left with is the person you chose to live with and for me, this is the most important facet of our relationship. All these political problems, while difficult and complicated, are a very shallow layer of life, as they are completely different from what we have at home. It’s always worth it.

 

I want people to see that when you choose a person it’s because they are worth these external difficulties. It’s not always going to be easy, because life is not comfortable or easy. Whenever we are facing very difficult times, I just remind myself that Osama is worth it. These problems will go away because they are not forever, whereas we are. So this gives me the fuel to keep fighting. Like Gabriella said, if you have your story or something you believe in, you should go for it.

Tribeca: If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (dead or alive) who would it be?

 

Gabriella Bier:
That’s so hard. Well, if I have to choose one I would say Martin Scorsese. I am very inspired by fiction films, and the beginning of this film was inspired by the voice over at the beginning of Goodfellas. It turned out it was impossible to recreate because Scorsese had really planned every shot and I couldn’t do the same thing with the material I had available, but I would just want to ask him how he did it.

Tribeca: He’s actually being interviewed in the Directors Series for the Festival!

 

Gabriella Bier:
I also like Palestinian and Israeli filmmakers. I was much more inspired
by their documentaries than documentaries about the region that have been made by people in Europe and the States, because these filmmakers have a very close relationship to every part of their film. There are a lot of films that have an agenda, but some of them are really personal. Actually, one of my colleagues just did a fantastic film called The Black Power Mixtape, and it was funny because I hadn’t seen much of it during editing, and when I saw it, I felt that a lot of the things he was talking about in his film were a lot of things I’d been thinking about myself.

Tribeca: We are actually featuring the first Israeli horror film in the Festival.

 

Jasmin Avissar:
[laughs] You mean it’s not a news piece?!

 

Tribeca: What are your hopes for Love During Wartime at Tribeca?

 

Gabriella Bier:
I’m very happy that it’s going to be shown in New York. It’s a huge audience who are really interested in culture. It’s not the same in Stockholm. I hope the audience will love it.

 

Tribeca: And Jasmin and Osama, you’ve seen the film?

 

Jasmin Avissar:
Lots of times.

 

Tribeca: What has that been like?

 

Jasmin Avissar:
Horrible! [laughs] I’m like, “I sound so stupid” or ”No I didn’t say that!” It’s been 5 years since we filmed most of the scenes, and I’ve grown a lot since then, so it was true to that time in our lives, but it’s hard to watch now.

Tribeca: But it was a good experience overall?

 

Jasmin Avissar:
Yes. It’s nice to see the shots from home where we haven’t been in a long time, and to see clips of our friends.

 

Tribeca: When was the last time you were there?

 

Osama Avissar:
4 years ago.

Jasmin Avissar:
Osama can’t go back, and I was there 2 years ago, and then I got pregnant and we had our daughter Laila, so a lot has happened in that time. I’m actually going back to Israel in two weeks though.

 

Tribeca: Have you been to New York before?

 

Jasmin Avissar:
No we’ve never been to America before, and I feel like I’ve fallen into a film because I only know America from films! [laughs] So I’m star struck.

 

Tribeca: What makes Love During Wartime a Tribeca must-see?

 

Gabriella Bier:
It’s an important story that will change your life.



Find out where and when Love During Wartime is playing at the Festival.

 

Check out Love During Wartime's Official Website.

 

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