Monday Night — Screening & Discussion with Avi Mograbi

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Monday Night — 06.23.03 — Screening & Discussion with Avi Mograbi
1. About Monday
2. Synopsis for Happy Birthday, Mr. Mograbi
3. Director’s statement + Filmography
4. Some Details + Film Festivals
5. Press Clips
6. Next Monday at 16Beaver –> Trevor Paglen
1. About Monday
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.
2. 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.
3. Director?s statement + Filmography
In 1997 the date of my birthday was two days before Israel?s Independence Day. I was in New York on a family visit and it so happened that I celebrated my birthday two days later, on Independence Day. This coincidence provoked in me thoughts that eventually bore the nucleus to the film ?Happy Birthday, Mr. Mograbi?.
In 1998 Israel celebrated its 50th anniversary and I decided to celebrate my own anniversary on the same date (though it was due only ten days later. The Israeli Independence Day is marked according to the Hebrew calendar, therefore it is not marked on the same date every year).
The raw idea was to tell two parallel stories. The first about the making of a documentary following the jubilee celebrations. The second about the middle age crisis of the filmmaker making this documentary – me – whose birthday coincides with that of the state. These two stories were supposed to run a dialogue, or in fact argue, on the screen.
For several months I have juggled with this idea but something was bothering me, and when I realised what it was it seemed obvious. I realised there was no way to mark these two anniversaries without marking a third – the Nakba – the 50th anniversary of the Palestinian catastrophe.
Now, the third channel of the script began to take shape. In this line of story a Palestinian producer hires the same filmmaker to shoot stuff for a film the Palestinians are making to mark the Nakba.
The material he shoots for the Palestinian project takes the form of a kind of a disruption of the film (the ?final? one, the one you watch). Images of remains of destroyed Palestinian villages invade the film like pirate broadcasts invade legitimate channels. Shots of ruined Palestinian houses, ruins of former Palestinian villages – take over the picture without warning reaching the climax of the film on Israel?s Independence Day, the Nakba memorial day and the birthday of the filmmaker of all three films.
I tried to make a film consisting of three different story lines that run in one man?s consciousness, that of the filmmaker of the three films. Only the materials here have greater freedom than usual. They run along the script notes for a while and then take over the script, and create their own order of events. The filmmaker, poor guy, has to cope with the consequences of the new conjunctures created.
Avi Mograbi
Avi Mograbi – Filmography
2002 Wait, it?s the soldiers, I have to hang up now
13 minutes, video
2002 August
72 min., 35mm, docufiction
2000 At the back
32 minute video installation
2000 Will you please stop bothering me and my family
7 minutes in a loop, video installation
1999 Relief
5 minutes in a loop, video installation
1999 Happy Birthday Mr. Mograbi
77 minutes, 16mm, docufiction
Runner Up Prize – Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival
1997 How I learned to overcome my fear and love Arik Sharon
61 minutes, video, docufiction
1994 The reconstruction (The Danny Katz murder case)
50 minutes, documentary, video
Israeli Film Institute Award for Best Documentary
1989 Deportation
12 minutes, fiction, 16 mm
Cracow Short Film Festival – Silver Dragon Award
Israeli Film Institute Award for Editing
4. Details for Happy Birthday, Mr. Mograbi
director, editor, script & production by: Avi Mograbi
co-produced by: Serge Lalou – Les Films D?Ici
cast: Daoud Kuttab, Shahar Segal, Ephraim Stan, Gidi Dar, Roni Pisker, Ido Berger
cameramen: Eytan Harris, Ron Katzenelson, Itzik Portal, Yoav Gurfinkel, Oded Kimhi, Yoav Dagan.
1999, 77 minutes, Beta sp
World premiere: 1999 Berlin International Film Festival – International Forum
Runner Up Prize – Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival
Doc-Aviv Film Festival – Tel Aviv – Distinguished Filmmaker Award
Hampton International Film Festival – Conflict and Resolution award
Michael Moore Award for best documentary ? Ann Arbor Film Festival
Special Mention in the international competition – Festival of New Film – Split
Second prize award – Jewish Identity category – Judah Magnes Museum’s Jewish Video Competition
Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival – Special mention NETPAC jury.
Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short & Animation Films
Vancouver International Film Festival
INPUT 1999 Conference – Fort Worth
Seattle International Film Festival
Cinema Tout Ecran – Geneva
Athens (Ohio) International Film Festival
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Festival of Jewish Cinema – Australia
Denver International Film Festival
Art Film Fesival – Slovak Republic
Ljubljana International Film Festival
Dokumentarfilmfestival – Munchen
Boston Jewish Film Festival
Encontros de Cinema Documental ? Portugal
Etats Generaux du Film Documentaire – Lussas
Calcutta International Film Festival
Bombay International Film Festival
Seoul Human Rights Film Festival
Saint Louis Interntional Film Festival
Cork Film Festival
Wales International Film Festival
Kalamata Documentary Film Festival
Biennale de l?image en mouvement – Geneve
Transmediale 2000 media art festival Berlin
The Film Center – Chicago
Cleveland International Film festival
International Fim Festival of Kerala
Fukuoka Asian Film Festival
Buenos Aires Festival Int?l de Cine Independiente
Broadcast: Arte, Israel Cable TV Channel 8, YLE TV2 Finland, PTS Taiwan
Avi Mograbi
5 Bilu Street, Tel-Aviv 65222, Israel
tel. 972-3-6858889, fax 972-3-6859154, e-mail mograbi@netvision.net.il
5. Press Clips
…Of this three-fold approach results a script full of humor and seriousness, an heterogeneous composition, built as much of reality as of personal questions which, step by step, find meaning. This has farce, fable and parable, in this region – too – rich in symbols….
Le Monde
The film switches artfully back and forth between the three stories, providing Mograbi with a challenging and entertaining forum in which to address serious issues facing the nation of Israel. The result is a sardonic mosaic sure to offend and delight any audience anywhere near as heterogeneous as The Holy Land… “Likely to provoke spirited discussion on the nature of media, commemorations and, of course, politics…”
… Best of the lot was an Israeli doc/fiction mix, Avi Mograbi’s Happy Birthday Mr. Mograbi, in which the on-camera director intersperses hilarious monologues about fictitious personal dilemmas with strikingly manipulated visuals relating to Israel’s 50th anniversary festivities.
Time Out – New York
…Mograbi stretches to the utmost this metaphor of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, tracing the parallels between his schizophrenia and the bad conscience of his country….
…The hilarious arguments of this mad film-maker with different interlocutors are interwoven with his property disappointments, the official festivities – where Netanyahu is shown to be an incomparable demagogue – and an archeological research of Arab traces in Israel, etc.
The strongest is, of course, the hero/director?s caustic view of the nationalist feast of the Israeli jubilee, what is striking is to verify the ordinary hate climate enveloping his fellow countrymen.
Almost an organic continuation of the aggressive politics of his country, where the similitudes with the present Yugoslav situation are conspicuous. When the last images of the film are seen, those of the blood bath sanctioned by the stones thrown by the Palestinians, you could believe being suddenly transported to Kosovo. Astonishing.
Les Inrockuptibles
…….. The advantage of the film lies, first and foremost, in the successful attempt of Avi Mograbi who wrote and directed it, to maneuver between the ridiculous and the solemn, between amused mockery of the local mayhem and serious unequivocal criticism of this society, whose so called spiritual side is manifested by Netanyahu?s speeches and Rita?s screeching the lyrics of the national anthem……
…. A clever and fascinating film….
….a wild and crazy film…..
Kol Israel Radio
It is a humorous, yet deeply political film, in which personal relations, politics, religion, and history are interwoven to form harsh critique of the segment of the Israeli establishment who would rather forget that the founding of the Jewish state was heavily paid for by the Palestinians. Avi Mograbi may not look like it, but he certainly is an angry man and Happy Birthday Mr. Mograbi is a totally uncompromising film.
Mograbi has made a multilayered documentary which seems too perfect to be true.
Helsingin Sanomat
There is no laws restricting making movies but nevertheless this kind of well-wishing experiments are seen far too seldom
Suomen Kuvalehti
Well done Mr. Mograbi
6. Next Monday –> Trevor Paglen
As a part of our Prison Series, we are thrilled to invite Bay Area artist, writer, experimental geographer Trevor Paglin.
Some preliminary details below:
“Listening to Pelican Bay” is an experimental lecture documenting a
series of unauthorized incursions into California’s carceral landscape.
Using conventions from film, music, lecture, and performance art,
“Listening to Pelican Bay” creates a multi-sensory montage which seeks
to both ask and answer some of the following questions: What are the
origins of super-max incarceration and what are its effects?; Why is the
Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay State Prison so quiet?; How does
Pelican Bay function within larger topographies of incarceration and
domination?; What are some strategies that cultural producers might use
in order to gain access to illegal places?
Trevor Paglen is an artist, writer, and experimental geographer
currently working out of the Department of Geography at the University
of California, Berkeley. His work encodes and decodes physical and
cultural landscapes in ways that challenge the assumptions,
proscriptions, and prohibitions built into human environments. Borrowing
heavily from the physical and human sciences, Paglen uses a broad range
of contemporary media to develop projects for cultural institutions,
activist organizations, and urban landscapes.