The award-winning new film The Syrian Bride is a product of collaboration between the veteran Israeli director Eran Riklis and the young Palestinian writer Suha Arraf. Set on the border between Israel and Syria, the film tells the story of Mona, a Druze bride, and her family from a village in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights as they prepare for Mona’s wedding.
Mona’s groom is a popular Syrian television star, but the couple has never met because of the political border and conflict that divide them. So the celebrations surrounding Mona’s wedding are tinged with apprehension and sadness because once she crosses the border to join her new husband in Damascus, Mona will not be allowed to return to her village.
Eran Riklis said his inspiration for the film came from a real-life situation he encountered 8 years ago while making a documentary on Israel’s borders with surrounding countries. He returned to one of the villages in the Golan Heights to become better acquainted with a family he had met.
Speaking with host Carol Castiel of VOA News Now’s Press Conference USA, Mr. Riklis said the actors are primarily Israeli Arabs and the dialogue is in Arabic. He explained that many of them shared experiences with the characters they played, so they were uniquely able to tell the story from an authentic “human point of view.” The Druze community lives in Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, where they are integrated in varying degrees; it is generally assumed that their “secret” religious beliefs derive from a splinter group within Islam centuries ago. Eran Riklis said that part of his “charter as a filmmaker” is to get close to people and bring their story to the screen with honesty and sensitivity. Furthermore, it is his duty to make films about what is relevant to what’s happening in the region politically and socially. He noted that in today’s world global politics are local politics.
In the Arab world where Israeli-made films are generally banned, The Syrian Bride has thus far been shown publicly only in Morocco, where he was a guest of the King, Mr. Riklis said. He noted, however, the film has been a “huge success” in Europe, where Arab minority populations have seen it. And it will soon be playing in North and South America, he said. For him, one of the most poignant moments in the film is when an Israeli photographer asks Mona, the bride, a simple question as she is about to cross the border, “Are you afraid?” Mr. Riklis said that he sees himself primarily as a “director of actors,” who need to identify fully with their characters and the situation posed by the film – in this case people who are trapped within themselves, their borders, and their traditions. For example, Mona’s older sister in the film embodies some of those “psychological borders.” She is torn between her family ties and her professional aspirations. Eran Riklis said he thinks of his film as “opsimistic,” that is, a little bit optimistic, a little bit pessimistic – just like the region itself.
For full audio of the program Press Conference USA click here