The partner is pleased to present the interview given by Mrs. Yael Perlov, film editor, producer film lecture and teacher at Tel Aviv University. This is an interview that was given on the sidelines of the Rwanda Film Festival whose 14th edition took place from September 15-21 in Kigali with screenings in different parts of the country under the theme of “Heritage”. Yael Perlov was one of the prominent invitees of this festival which is organized every year by Kwetu Film Institute, during which she screened the film “Ben-Gurion, Epilogue” and organized workshops for younger generations, thanks to the connection of the Embassy of Israel in Rwanda based in Ethiopia. Here is what she had to say about:
TP: Can you please tell us about yourself?
YP: So my name is Yael Perlov, I am a film editor and films producer and I teaching at Tel Aviv University for many years. I teach editing, I initiated short films documentary and fiction with my students, sometimes it’s about political issues, sometimes social issues, and we work also with Palestinians but always with cinema students. So this is about my teaching to Tel Aviv University. What I produced, I produced always things which is interesting. I produced series of women writers, because I thought it is interesting to show the situation of women in Israel when they write books. I produced Ben-Gurion Epilogue which is a film that I presented here. I presented a film that is based on archives only about Ben-Gurion, the Founder of Israel. I found six hour interview together with Yariv Mozer the Director. We found archive materials of 1960’s 1967’s; it’s an interview that was never shown, and I found it was right to restore things in a film about his biography that my father did. My father was a film director also and he did fiction film in 1968 which is called “42:6”. After my father died I decided to restore his films.
TP: How did you know of this Rwanda film festival?
YP: Well, it was every interesting question because I got a calling from Minister of Foreign Affairs telling me, there is a film festival in Kigali and the subject is “Heritage”. So it was a motive of 2nd Advisor of Israel Embassy in Ethiopia; he called telling me, listen: I loved your film on Ben-Gurion and I think he used expression it is like: “Hand in Glove”, “ça tombe bien”. Any way; it’s Israel Embassy in Ethiopia that connected me to this festival. I’m really pleased and happy to be her. My condition was that besides screening of the film, I’ll make a workshop. This is really what I wanted to do besides; I always try to suggest it even I wanted to know the students of the young generation according to your history, according to any history. I wanted to tell them that, if there is a film to make this is a framework to do it.
So they launched for me workshops in a television and a school here “Kwetu” (Kwetu Film Institute of Kigali). By Kwetu I had a second workshop with 10 students and through Kwetu I suggested that this workshop is about “Preservation film”, which means the preservation of your past. They gave me 3 hours of workshop which is a lot. What I did in the film institute, I brought hot film, screened it to them, and look out to today because now there are working with cards or digital devices. Now you can shoot with a Smartphone, but thirty years ago or even few years it wasn’t like that! To connect to the film I did about Ben-Gurion, because you know it’s like opening a treasure, you open and then certainly… and then, I asked them do you have a photo from the past? It was a quite delicate question because of genocide. So we found what we have to talking about; what does mean to preserve your past, and I asked them to found if they have something. I wanted to show them that even one photo from their parents, from someone else it’s enough to make a film.
TP: Can you tell us about Ben-Gurion Epilogue for those who have not followed the screening?
YP: In the great depths of the archive, six hours of interview footage was discovered of one of modern history’s greatest leaders, David Ben-Gurion. It is 1968 and he is 82 years old, five years before his death. He lives in his secluded home in the desert, removed from all political discourse, which allows him a hindsight perspective on the Zionist enterprise. Ben-Gurion’s introspective soul searching is the focus of this film, and his clear voice provides a surprising vision for today’s crucial decisions and the future of Israel.
TP: With little knowledge I think we can make a movie, but it seems that this requires a little more professional capacity; does not it?
YP: In the workshop, it was about documentary film not fiction. In documentary film sometimes one photo is enough to develop a documentary film, I’m sure of this. Then I asked one after one if they have a photo. In the workshop there was a woman who works in a youth center. She said that she found a marriage photo with her husband who was killed during the genocide, and through this photo she can read all a life.
TP: How do you assess the situation of the film industry in Africa, in Rwanda in particular?
YP: You know, in a way it remind me in Israel twenty years ago; the people, the students here have the perfect speaking of English, which mean that they are open to the world; they are very curious and have a great will to learn more and more, and to be open to the world. I founded this very quickly with face book, because face book is very important. I meet some people here for one hour, but then we continue. Until five days we continue to talk through face book, we send pictures together, exchange ideas, three days only after the workshop. I write, I read again, they write me again some questions, we exchange photo and communication is very quickly done. So, stories are very interesting for documentaries. I ask them to tell me how you produce a film; I get all stages and then asked them to tell me the story with which they want to make the film. Of course most of them talk finally about the past and about of the future, and they are very curious to know about the production, how to raise money.
From very few information that I have from the reality here, I told them what I did. What you do to make a film without money? In this case they are very attentive because everybody needs to know how to raise money. So, first I told them, they can do their own film without money because today they have smart phones and everything is very cheap. So, first they have to be sure that the idea with themselves is well for doing it,is not “Paka Paka” . It is about to believe that you can do it with very cheap equipment, very, very cheap. And you can post it online without taking care that somebody will be keen to give money because it has to be confirmed behind any aid.
Then what you can do, you can raise money; the most important thing is the government of course because what they told me is that now, there is no support from the government. For example my father was a Brazil immigrant, who was born in Brazil and came later in Israel. And in order to do films (he made a lot of films) began with propaganda films, about train, railway stations; we were in the country in construction, it was a new country. When government tells you to make a film, even if it is not your idea, you can began with this; just practice, before you get money you get experience, you practice your profession. You can do it on your invoice anyway; please try to work on preparing a dossier! If you cannot be paid to the state, tell them. Today media is very important, you cannot escape it everything is shown today.
TP: This country has o tourism sector which is more and more attractive. Is it possible to make films on this sector for attracting people and raise money?
YP: Of course, I mean the government but I don’t know enough, it stills not my continent. But every country has to expose, expose oneself. In Israel even the minister of foreign affairs mention it before, that Israel will show that we are; that we exist, to show where are we, to take a camera and to show otherwise it is left for imagination you know? What did I know about Rwanda? Even I didn’t know about chimpanzees (Mountain Gorillas), I didn’t know anything. For me, Africa is something very you know far and exotic and we have many problems our way, so many problems so; but in Rwanda, this area is dynamic, it is under statement. Tropical, exotic but anything else. There are a lot of things but it’s not enough known. I think you must develop tourism first of all, you must shoot it. It is better to look at where is it today.
TP: This requires professionalism and not doing it as an amateur?
YP: Yes, amateur is not good! I mean to practice, to know how to hold a camera, how to record sound, how to put a light, this take time! But Kwetu Film Institute practice young generation students and they get diploma of 3 months, and then they can practice with propaganda films. You have television also. Propaganda film is film for the government; I don’t think is so bad. Why not, you learn a lot how to tell story, and besides it I see the practice and some grants. And sometimes money is a stamp, tampon, go ahead! we needs it too; this is the first. The second thing first I thing is to believe in yourself and think with good ideas. Second, is to go to the government with a prepared dossier, being well prepared not “Paka Paka”. This is what I have done in Israel. I tried to put interest the embassies mainly the embassy of USA. Connection with embassies I believe it is a good connection. Ambassadors were themselves in the festival. There is in every embassy a cultural department. Maybe they are looking projects to give money for them, why not? Which mean to be open; and you can also make shorts examples showing your perspectives, what you want to do.
TP: Sometimes, one might ask whether it would be beneficial to have a partnership with individuals or external institutions for advice or new ideas.
YP: Yes, maybe; I don’t know a lot because I’m here from few days, but I know the wholes; what I said very well is that Americans are here. And what I know for my country is that they are professional; you must really be prepared, not “I have a dream”. But when it comes to fix time to raise money here, try to raise your activities. And you have televisions her who give works to young people; they look for young energetic generation. I went to genocide museum; and what I felt the tendency of this museum is not just thinking about the past but about the future; and thing, I felt that this for the government is a policy, which mean that if the young generation goes out for money because of they want a new Rwanda it can be successful.
TP: Have you thought about the future concerning your contribution to the technical capacity building of this sector here in Rwanda?
YP: I’m sure that I gave my ideas, I’m sure that something will happen; otherwise I would not have come. I come to make thing different, even one idea from a mountain of idea I have got, I showed the film I did, the Ben-Gurion Epilogue. I recited this phrase: “Things are done by things”, not by ideas. I don’t believe in ideas, I believe in doing things, in acting. I came not to change but giving them the new ideas.
TP: Israel and Rwanda have historical similarities as both nations experienced genocide, and experienced a period of reconstruction. You also said “this area is dynamic”, do you think this offers opportunities for propaganda films?
YP: The word “propaganda” is not quite accurate. I meant that we should look courageously at our past, investigate it, expose it, film and showcase it. It takes time, I know, to examine and to look at our own history. For Instance, in Israel nobody spoke about the Holocaust for a long time. It took many years to start talking about it. I represent the second generation of Holocaust survivors. I wanted to know what happened to my parents during that time. I tried to reveal and understand it. I believe that it’s important not only for my generation, but especially for the next one, for our children. One of the ways to deal with that trauma is to look back boldly at our past, film what is still left and see how it affects our society and day to day life.
TP: You mentioned some documentaries on women situation in Israel, how can we link this to the fight we are doing here in favor of gender equality, sensitivity and against gender based violence?
About a decade ago, I produced a series of documentary films about female authors. I called it – “Women writers – A room of Your Own”. It was quite clear to me back then that this era belongs to women. It’s our time. Even though it’s not directly connected to the “Me too” movement, it’s still about women’s rights and their need to speak out and be heard.
TP: How did the young people who participated in the workshop appreciate it?
YP: I shot it for preparing a film about it. I saw from eyes that they are eristic to say about themselves, about their stories, but still don’t know to make it happen. That is what I felt, and in the sometime I felt that something can happen, they can make it. Not all of them; among twenty you can found four or five, it is a lot. If you find even one it is enough, but I think it will be more.
TP: What can you propose as strategy in which you can also took part to ensure the impact of your contribution to this festival?
YP: During my workshop at the festival, I witnessed the students’ will and determination to learn and develop themselves. Their curiosity moved me and their enthusiasm for the cinema impressed me. I focused on the importance of preserving film archives and advised them about what kind of productions they should focus on. When it comes to cinema we know very little about Rwanda. Hardly anything at all. I told them that it is their job to raise the resources, to make films that show this magnificent country and its people. The government should support those kinds of projects.
Interviewed by Freddy Mutimura