Syrian director Amir Fakhr El-Din belongs to the new aesthetic sensibilities that have emerged on the Arab film scene in recent years. His cinematic experience did not remain confined to the technical pattern that controls the mechanisms of film production, as is the case with a constellation of new directors, as much as his experience remains open to a kind of cinematic experimentation capable of re-imagining stories and stories according to a coherent visual pattern.
It does not negate the technical obsession with aesthetically dealing with the image, but rather integrates it through the narration paths and the sedition of the narration, so that the cinematic image becomes complex and has strong symbolic connotations, which makes it penetrate into the minds of the viewer.
On the occasion of the nomination of his feature film “The Stranger” (2021) for the Oscar, Al Jazeera Net had this special interview with him:
The road to the Oscars
What does it mean to you as a director that your new film “The Stranger” (2021) will be nominated for an Oscar in the Best Palestinian Feature Film category?
Representing Palestine in the Oscars is an honor for me and for the Golan as a whole, despite our Syrian identity and belonging to the homeland, Syria.
I personally consider this candidacy a moment of honorary adoption, especially since we share the suffering and the state of waiting with the Palestinian brothers, and although the film takes place in the Golan, I see it as a general cinematic film that does not belong to one country only, but to the greater homeland, which is the Arab world.
Certainly, with regard to the first work, I am happy with the echoes and the successes achieved by the film, especially since the first film is among the trilogy that I am thinking of, which we can call “Around the House”. And also because the work met with these echoes and won this nomination from the Palestinian Ministry of Culture and won awards in Cairo and the Arab world as a whole.
How did the idea for the title of the movie come about? Did the novel “The Stranger” have any impact on the formulation of the text’s worlds and its artistic, aesthetic and imaginative horizons?
The title of the film came from the editing stage, as I was supervising it for a whole year. At that point, I felt that it was the appropriate title for the film, after there was another title.
The name “The Stranger” came after long viewing and a long search about the feelings in the film and the state of alienation that I wanted to talk about in general.
As for Albert Camus’ novel, although I admire the existential wave of some writers and authors, the film does not take more from the novel than its name. However, it is possible to see some connection points in which the novel may coalesce with the movie “The Stranger”, such as the feeling of waiting without hope.
Has literature had a share in influencing your imagination and creating new images from the Golan?
In my opinion, cinema practically did not create the narrative, but borrowed it from theater or literature. With time, I was always looking for something that persuaded me, attracted me, and moved me from a narrative point of view, to make me think, and this was clear from the influences that I was affected by from literature, which contributed to refining my cinematic vision of the narrative method I chose in the movie “The Stranger.”
Therefore, I do not like cinema that depends on the causal plot, but rather the cinema that deals with the effect rather than the cause, where the narration is a study of the personality. The film, although with a narrative plot, tells the study of a person who falls into an existential crisis and has to get out of it.
Between real and imaginary
What are the limits of intersection and convergence in the character of “Adnan” between the real and the imaginary?
In the film, I focused on the place of the Golan as an essential part of my visual narrative, but time is not necessarily based on the background of the concept of realism.
Therefore, the film takes place during the moment of the war in Syria, where we hear the war but do not see it. So I create a Golan world for the same characters who used and embodied the place to serve the character’s condition.
In The Stranger, I tried to embody the place by using the place and not by copying it as it is. I give him diagnostic dimensions that simulate the world that I aspire to create cinematically around a character. It is the character of Adnan in a certain place.
Therefore, if you copy the place, it remains shallow and without depth, and the character is separated from its axis. I think that the place has to play a role in the end, but not the realistic role that reflects reality.
It is true that in the larger picture I simulate the case of the Golan and the case of the Arab tragic hero, so between the imaginary and the real, and I had no fear of preserving or losing realism, on the contrary, the mechanism of action was clear. As a cinematographer, I create a special world in which there are reflections of reality.
“Al-Gharib” received an astonishing and admirable reception from film critics and the press, although her speeches differed in the level of understanding of the film. Do you think this is mainly due to the film’s complex nature?
I am with you personally. Because I saw how the film was received at the Venice Film Festival and how foreign critics saw the film, and I was astonished by their political awareness and they were able to communicate this awareness with their human poetics, with which they described our reality as if they were living with us.
This is the importance of international festivals and participation in them, as you feel that they are indeed a cultural bridge, and that we live the same situations in different colors and feel the same feelings and experience the same experiences of alienation, isolation, pain and love.
Even the Arab and German critics, there was a diversity of receiving and understanding the film, and I received a lot of messages from people who attended the film and wanted to write what they felt, and I collected all those messages that exceeded 100 messages, and they are all different and discuss a special concept for the viewer. This is the happiest thing that makes me stronger as a cinematographer and gives me hope for what I do and what I do in the cinema.