THE PROJECT IN TWO MINUTES
Jean Luc Godard had once offered to Marcel Ophuls to co-direct a film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Marcel had refused. Prompted by the Israeli attack on Gaza in the summer of 2014, Marcel urged Jean Luc to follow him there to direct the said film. This time Jean-Luc declined. This is when Eyal Sivan came along, as Marcel offered him to co-direct the film. But time has changed, and so have conflicts…
In Israel, some exhort the “national preference”. Others, usually younger, find exile… in Berlin. In France, the National Front Party defends “the Jews”, while intellectuals casually spill their islamophobic rants on TV. Has the world gone topsy-turvy?
Shock interviews, encounters, confrontations: from Tel-Aviv to Paris, to the West Bank, this journey in film will cut with sharp hits a map of the ideologies of our time. It will give the opportunity to reveal a few unpleasant truths about anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, the real or alleged importation of the conflict…
The feature is also a documentary film about what is it to make a documentary film. It’s a relay race between a cosmopolite and rebellious filmmaker born in the twilight of old Europe, and a cosmopolite and rebellious filmmaker born in the Israel of the late 60s. Between those two explosive personalities, the exchange promises a few fireworks, and so much the better… Because are the racers passing a baton or a dynamite stick?
The association Confluences, in charge of collecting the contributions, is authorized to deliver donation receipts (60% of tax reduction on a contribution by a company, 66% of tax reduction for a person). You may therefore support Marcel Ophuls and Eyal Sivan’s film and benefit from a tax reduction.
DETAILED PRESENTATION OF THE PROJECT
Unpleasant Truths (working title)
A film by Marcel Ophuls and Eyal Sivan
De Gaulle: “But what is there, in that documentary, The Sorrow and the Pity?”
The national TV director: “Unpleasant truths, my general.”
De Gaulle: “The French don’t need truths, they need hope.”
Let’s consider on the one hand Marcel Ophuls, one of the greatest interviewers in the history of French cinema (“the greatest” he might object) and look at him: subtle, with a dry humour, intrepid and overacting, seasoned and youthful. Let’s consider on the other hand, Eyal Sivan, one of the most insolent Israeli filmmakers ever (he’d certainly say the most insolent).
And let’s imagine now that those two men join forces to share a filmic reflection about what is going on today, here in France, there in Israel. A film that would intertwine and harmonize two outlooks and two styles: one director being the heir of the pre-war European cinema, and the second notably fed with the films of the former…
Those two share more than mutual admiration. As wide as is the difference in their age, nationality or education, their pieces of work are informed by the same will: to help citizen to be aware of their own history, rather than to adhere to a consensual “national fiction” that would hold the society together. This ambition has brought about films that, no doubt, have angered many. But shall one shut his eyes or rather open them? In other words, shall one film the Sorrow and the Pity or profess that all were partisans and that Petain saved many Jews? Shall one watch Road 181 by Eyal Sivan and Michel Khleifi, or pretend that Palestine was an empty desert upon the arrival of the pioneers of the Zionist movement?
Both filmmakers, in their own ways, have upset the understanding of the history of their own country. Today, cameras in hand, they want to confront the present and its complex realities.
How not to ask…
…Why today in France, many senior members of the National Front defend Israel and “the Jews”?
Why a few Jewish French intellectuals feed the National Front ideological corpus, number how many black they are in France’s football team, when they are not working to rehabilitate Marshal Petain?
How can we understand than a former speaker of the Knesset and member of the Israeli Labour party, and religious as well, is nowadays an advocate for a common State for two people? Is “the national preference” enforced in Israel? Does the policy of the Israeli government foster anti-Semitism in the world? Is Islamophobia the new anti-Semitism of the day? Are we subdued by the bad memories of a not too distant past?
Are we lost in the most complete confusion?
Those questions are all linked together, they resonate with France’s colonial policy, with Israel’s policy, with conflicts past and present who shake both societies. They will be asked all along the film by two filmmakers who embody the Jewish cosmopolitan tradition, in all its singularity and charm. For it is still a living language, part humour and part affliction, irony and seriousness, fatalism and hope. To contribute to their film is to endorse a courageous endeavour and an ambitious cinematographic project.
INTRODUCING THE DIRECTORS
Marcel Ophuls :
Born on November 1st, 1927 in Frankfurt in Germany, Marcel is a French and American citizen. The son of Max Ophuls and Hilde Wall, he followed their exile in France in 1933 and in the USA in 1941.
He came back to France in 1950 where he became an assistant for major names of French cinema, including his father. He then started directing his first feature films (“Banana peel”, “Fire at will”, “Munich or peace in our time”). 1969 marked a watershed in his filmmaking career with the release of “The sorrow and the pity”, nominated at the academy awards for best documentary film. The film would live to be censored by the French national TV for more than a decade, only shown on TV after the Left rose to power in 1981. “The sorrow and the pity” chronicles the life of a provincial town (Clermont-Ferrand) between 1940 and 1944. The film investigates the German occupation, the Vichy regime, and the notion of French collaboration during that time, through a dialogue with various protagonists (military men, statesmen, key witnesses). Many other films would follow, among which “Memory of justice”, “Hotel terminus”, winner of the academy award for best documentary feature un 1989, “November days”, “The troubles we’ve seen”, “A traveller”.
Symbolising a dialogue with history, Marcel Ophuls has distinguished himself by addressing the most tragic subject with humour and solemnity. Questioning the powerful of the world, his films are always dedicated to the victims, the weaker ones.
Eyal Sivan :
Eyal Sivan, is a documentary filmmaker and theoretician based in Paris, born in 1964 in Haifa Israel and raised in Jerusalem. As teenager Sivan abandons formal education to dedicate to his hobbies: still photography and political activism. After exercising as a professional commercial photographer in Tel-Aviv, he leaves Israel in 1985 and settled in Paris. Since he is sharing is time between Europe and Israel. Known for his controversial films, Sivan directed more than dozen worldwide acclaimed & awarded political documentaries and produced many others. (Common State 2012, Jaffa 2009, Route 181 2003, The Specialist 1999, Izkor 1990...) His cinematographic body of work was shown and awarded various prizes in prestigious festivals. (Berlinal, Cinema du Reel, IDFA, TIFF Toronto, VDR Nyon, Yamagata...). Beside worldwide theatrical releases and TV broadcasts (ARTE, BBC, CANAL+, CBC, FRANCE TELEVISION, NHK, RAI, WDR, ZDF...). Sivan's films are regularly exhibit in major art shows around the world. (CCCB, Documenta, Manifesta, ICP NY, BDF HKW...) He publishes and lectures on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, documentary filmmaking and ethics, political crimes and representation, political use of memory, genocide and perpetrators representation, etc (UCLA, Goldsmiths College, SOAS, NFTA, NABA...). He is the founder and artistic director of the Paris based documentary films production company momento! and the film distribution platform momento distribution-Scalpel. Eyal Sivan is the founder and Chief Editor of South Cinema Notebooks - journal of cinema and political critic published by the Sapir academic college in Israel where he is regularly visiting professor. In the last years Sivan was co-leading the MA program in Film, video and new media as Associate Professor in media production at University of East London's (UEL) school of Arts and Digital Industries (ADI). Currently Sivan is honorary fellow at the European Center of Palestine Studies in University of Exeter UK and a regular visiting professor at the Master in artistic research through film that he co-wrote the curriculum for the Netherlands Film Academy (NFTA) in Amsterdam, in the NABA in Milan, in the Sapir academic college in Israel as well as member of the editorial board of the Paris based publishing house La Fabrique.
INTRODUCING THE TECHNICAL CREW
Boubkar Benzabat, camera operator
Pierre Carrasco, sound engineer
Eulalie Korenfeld : assisting editor
Audrey Maurion : chief editor
- Executive production and distribution: Zeugma Films / Michel David – Edwige Moreau
ZEUGMA FILMS has been producing documentary films for cinema and television since 1996 with the same demanding purpose to offer unexpected, exceptional, ambitious creations.
We aim to produce films that were vital for the director to make, that put his own soul at stake, films that let the spectator think for himself. The subject does not determine our production policy, only the way it is addressed matters. Our projects are a unique encounter between a matter, an author, a crew and us.
Since 2011, Zeugma Films has also been distributing documentary films, including Common State – potential conversation by Eyal Sivan – released in October 2013. The goal of this new engagement is to defend auteur cinema, where politics is at its most profound, where we can look at today’s world, the eyes wide open, sometimes at awe, often intrigued, surprised, upset, always unresolved.
Line production: Confluences and Momento production / Ariel Cypel – Hortense Quitard