You co-wrote the story with Suha Arraf. Why did you choose her and what did she bring to the story?
After I wrote the actual storyline, I felt that I needed a woman because a lot of the characters are female. I thought if I bring somebody who's Arab, her understanding of Arab life would be helpful, and that's exactly what I found in Suha. She brought the experiences of growing up in a small village. Her upbringing is similar to the woman portrayed in the film, but she has the benefit of somebody who has lived in a more modern society for many years. She was the best of all worlds for me.
What do you think the film says about the patriarchy in the Druze community?
I think it says some pretty strong things. But I think what it says about the Druze society applies to many societies, certainly in the Middle East, and probably beyond. You'll find the same structure on a community level and on a family level. Things are terribly bound by religion and tradition and are not really changing enough to become more sensible in a modern world.
You use a lot of attractive women in the film. Is that fairly reflective of the Druze community or did you have an aesthetic in mind?
It's not intentional. It's probably characteristic of the women I saw in the village. I think it all came down to the looks of Amal and Mona and that applied to how the other women in the family would look.
According to the film's press notes, it is against the Druze's religious beliefs to exercise political power or hold political office. Yet Hammed is a political prisoner and dissident. Can you talk about that?
The Druze are normally loyal to whatever is the ruling power. But in the case of the Druze in the Golan Heights, I think they simply remain, at least in Hammed's case, loyal to Syria. It's a very realistic approach in the sense that if one day there's going to be peace, and they go back to Syrian rule, they don't want to be treated as collaborators. It's partly tradition; it's partly being pragmatic.
This Druze family deals with traditionally anti-Druze elements: miscegenation; political dissent; alcohol and tobacco consumption, and there are references to premarital sex. Is this family a microcosm of the Druze at large? Are the Druze at a crossroads?
I think so. I'm not an expert on the Druze. From my emotional and personal impression of life there, I think this family is a pretty accurate portrayal of the conflicts the Druze face today. It's a very interesting community. On the one hand, they are modern - we are not talking about some remote village in Afghanistan here. A lot of them are quite well educated and well off. On the surface, it seems like a totally modern society. Underneath the surface, you discover a lot of things which can become quite heavy. There is certainly conflict in that sense. People I know face these questions everyday. Do we go with our traditions? Do we not? But I think your average Druze, in the end, despite the questions, sticks with tradition.
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