How did you get the inspiration for this woman’s hospital visit?
During the stabbing intifada, 2015, I accompanied my grandmother to the eye clinic in Jerusalem, to receive the treatment described in the film, a shot in the eye that prevents blindness. It was a crowded morning, as every morning in the eye clinic was. While waiting, the television broadcasted another stabbing event and reported that the wounded were on their way to the hospital in which we were sitting. We sat there in front of Israeli Arabs also waiting for their appointments. We all felt uncomfortable but somewhat understanding towards the other’s discomfort. My grandma whispered to me that we should watch ourselves from Arabs. On the way back home, she told me about Zaki, a Palestinian construction worker who painted her apartment. She lived alone. At the end of the day, Zaki asked her to sleep over because it was a difficult pass at the checkpoint in the morning, and he still has some work to do. She said yes, made the bed, served him dinner and wished him goodnight. That complex feeling of fear and understanding is what inspired me to write the script.
How much of the metaphor of opening one’s eyes to surrounding realities was there in your title?
Quite a lot. This metaphor is related on the one hand to Ilana, performed brilliantly by Asi Levi, who is willing to actually harm her health because she is afraid that an Arab doctor will hurt her. On the other hand, Open Your Eyes offers the audience a chance to open their eyes, by examining Ilana’s behavior from a deeper perspective, understanding that she is driven by an existential fear and not logical thought. This bi-directional path is what drove me to choose this title for the film.
Did you do research on the amount of Arab doctors in Jerusalem’s clinics?
I grew up and lived in Jerusalem most of my life. My parents are both doctors, so I know the topic from within. Arab doctors are an inseparable part of the Israeli healthcare system in general and in Jerusalem clinics in particular.
Are you interested in mother-and-son relationships and will you make further films on this theme?
For me family is the only thing in this world that is unchangeable, that is absolute. It’s a very powerful, interesting and conflicted area that I admire and which challenges me. At the moment I’m working on a feature film that centers a father-and-son relationship, and how far one will go for the other.
Are you concerned with people refusing essential treatments and will you deal with this topic in further films?
Essential is a relative word. What is categorized as essential by one is not necessarily categorized that way by another. So, in that matter I think people should do whatever they believe regarding themselves. The film describes a case in which a person refuses to receive essential treatment because of an emotional motive, a true fear. It also demonstrates the power of the interpersonal relationship between a doctor and a patient which is as essential, if not more, as the physical treatment.
How did you pick the lullaby song?
That’s an interesting story because I knew I wanted an Arab lullaby but didn’t know one. During the shooting, the entire crew slept at my parents’ house, including Shady Srour who played Dr. Khoury. The night before we shot the scene I asked him how he calms down his children at night. He sang this song to me and we were all relieved that we could get a few hours of sleep that night.
What sort of freedom would you say the short format allows?
It gave me the freedom to choose the topic and present it as I see it, but moreover it forced me to focus. You must create a connection with the audience in a very short time and you are restricted with what you include, as every film is, but in a more extreme measure. That restriction forces you to refine your intentions.
If you’ve already been to Clermont-Ferrand, could you share with us an anecdote or story from the festival? If not, what are your expectations for this year?
I’ve never been to Clermont-Ferrand and it’s a great honor for me to participate. I think there is a good competition this year, I expect to see good films and meet interesting people. No doubt, it will be an inspiring and influencing experience.
Where is your film showing after the festival?
The film will be screened next month in Paris at the Israeli film festival and in other film festivals worldwide. At the moment, the film is only available at T-Port, a professional online market for short films. But requests are welcome.
Are you taking part in other events during the Clermont-Ferrand Film Festival?
I’ll be at the Q&A for sure and will wander around the different cinema halls, watching films. Other than that, find me by the sparkling water stand.