Screening Discussion with Avi Mograbi

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Date/Time: 23/06/2003 12:00 am

Monday Night — 06.23.03 — Screening & Discussion with Avi Mograbi
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When: 7:00pm
Where: 16 Beaver Street, 5th Floor
Who: Everyone is Welcome
It has been almost exactly one year since we invited Avi Mograbi to screen and discuss his works. A war with Iraq and “roadmap” to peace? later, it seems the questions related to plans, strategies, tactics, responsibilities remain in the fore not just politically or ethically, but within the cultural field.
As an artist based in Israel, Avi Mograbi has never steered clear of the ?vulgar politics? of the everyday. But within his work, he is able to bring the banal and the complex conditions of the everyday into a liminal space, a cinematic space, sometimes mixing the gritty ?real? with the humorous ?fiction? in order to do so. And by creating this space, questions related to strategies, responsibilities, the absurd demands of the banal, the politics of the everyday are brought together and given the time to interrogate one another.
We hope you will be able to join us for what should be an interesting screening and discussion.
Synopsis for Happy Birthday, Mr. Mograbi
Happy Birthday, Mr. Mograbi
A Semi-Documentary
Avi Mograbi, a documentary filmmaker is hired by a TV producer to make a film about the celebrations of Israel’s fiftieth anniversary. The producer is tuned in to the media, and his mood swings accordingly. When the unemployment crisis breaks out, he washes his hands of the anniversary film and seeks to make a penetrating, socially engaged film instead. The deadlock in the peace-process leads the producer to a decision to make a film that will bring peace to the Middle East. During the newly awakened Gulf crisis the producer shuts himself away behind polyethylene sheets, gas-mask on. At this point he is not interested in making any film at all.
In the meantime a Palestinian film-producer from the Palestinian Authority makes contact with Mograbi. The Palestinians, too, mark the fiftieth anniversary – of the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem – the Nakba (catastrophe). He asks Mograbi to help him out in producing a film about the Nakba. He wants him to shoot locations that used to be Palestinian and became Jewish settlements following the 1948 War. He only wants pictures of places, no interviews nor events. Just places, houses, ruins, signs of life lost.
The same filmmaker tells the camera a story about himself, a story involving the purchase of a lot in the outskirts of the city, with the intention of building a small house to improve the quality of living, fulfill the Israeli Dream. This optimistic project turns into a sheer nightmare. Questions of ownership of the lot lead to violence between neighbors. He develops an obsession of self-documentation. Fragments of supposedly unplanned shooting find their way into the film and construct a personal, seemingly documentary, narrative.
During an interview concerning the Fiftieth Anniversary Celebrations, Mograbi discovers that this year his own forty second birthday and the State of Israel’s fiftieth Anniversary – which is celebrated according the Hebrew calendar – coincide.
The material he shoots for the Palestinian project becomes a kind of a disruption of the film. The remains of the destroyed Palestinian villages invade the film as a kind of pirate broadcasts over legitimate channels. Shots of ruined Palestinian houses, of Palestinian homes turned into Jewish homes, of settlements sprouting ruins of former villages – take over the picture while the sound-track tells the history of those places.
In its last third, the film becomes an argument, a strife between its three channels, its three narratives. Each one tries to overcome the others and take over the screen. One story may take control for a minute, then another disrupts and takes over with a kind of “video static”.
The film ends on the eve of Israel?s Independence Day. People are celebrating in the streets. The Palestinians in the Occupied Territories mark the Al Nakba – the catastrophe. Fireworks light up the sky. Palestinian protesters are shot dead by Israeli soldiers. Mograbi sits at home alone and finishes the telling of the three parallel stories.

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