AVIVA BERLIN interview with Udi Aloni
Karin Effing, Tatjana Zilg

AVIVA-Berlin talked with the director about his moving film Mechilot, shown in the Panorama section of the Berlinale, in which he explores the unconsciousness of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Artist, writer, filmmaker, Udi Aloni was born in 1959, in Israel. In 1985 he graduated from the Hamidrasha College of Art. In his numerous projects - films and visual art - he gleans the discourse that takes place between theology and politics. His book, Gilgul Mechilot and his documentary film, Local Angel include correspondence with the most pre-eminent philosophers of our time, including Slavoj Zizek, Alain Badiou, Avital Ronell and Judith Butler. His movies and visual art projects have been presented in various leading museums, galleries, and film festivals. Local Angel was shown at the Berlinale 2003. In the last few years, Aloni has concentrated on making films and writing. Mechilot (Forgiveness), Aloniīs first fiction film, was shown in the Panorama section of the 56th Berlinale 2006. The psycho-political thriller accompanies David Adler, a young Jewish artist who lives with his father in America, on his journey back to Israel where he joins the army. During an operation he shoots a girl. Traumatised, he is committed into a mental institution built on the ruins of a Palestinian village. Three father figures try to bring him back to normal life: his father who is a Holocaust survivor; the Muselmann who is also a patient in the hospital and the psychiatrist. Each one has his own theory about trauma and how to overcome it. Mechilot, with beautiful pictures and wonderful music, plays with shifts of meaning, time and place. For example, the murdered girl appears as a ghost or angel throughout the film.

AVIVA-Berlin: Udi Aloni, I was really moved by your film. What impressed you the most when you saw it again at the Berlinale?

Udi Aloni: I was really shocked because at the Berlinale I saw it on the biggest screen I have ever had seen my film shown on. But not only was the screening the CinemaxX 7 at the Potsdamer Platz really perfect, the sound was too. So I had a kind of new experience with Mechilot. It was like seeing it under the most perfect conditions. I donīt think I will ever see it under such conditions again. That was a really, really nice surprise for me. And furthermore, the screening was a big celebration for me. It was wonderful to have a full house and the people really loved it Iīm glad that there were many Palestinians and Israelis in the audience.

AVIVA-Berlin: Have you shown the film in Israel yet?

Udi Aloni: No, the film was finished a week before showing it at the Berlinale. The version shown in the Panorama was the final version. So itīs a totally fresh movie. The sound wasnīt as good as now.

AVIVA-Berlin: Itīs your first fiction film. Why did you decide to make a fiction film?

Udi Aloni: Yes, Iīve done documentaries before. In 2003 I was presented at the Berlinale with Local Angel. To make a feature film was a decision to make a film about the unconscious of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To deal with the unconscious is for me much more important than to deal with the ītrueī events. Itīs not against documentaries. But I think only fiction can tell the truth. Thatīs the reason I love literature so much. It tells the truth that a documentary can not express. Iīm kind of old-fashioned in thinking that psychoanalysis has something to say about politics.

AVIVA-Berlin: You said yesterday itīs an opera of the unconsciousness ...

Udi Aloni: I hope itīs true ...

AVIVA-Berlin: How important is the discourse with philosophers like Judith Butler and Slavoj Zizek for you?

Udi Aloni: This part of my life, the dialogue with philosophers, is very important for me.

AVIVA-Berlin: I think you can feel in the film the gender discourse in the background ...

Udi Aloni: What Judith Butler wrote in Gender Trouble, Politics and Kinship.Antigone for the Present and her other books is much more than dealing with gender. Itīs a foundation of how to deal with identity generally. The question of queer is about how you can live without being in the mainstream of society, to feel good about yourself and build communities that make change. Itīs about how to define yourself, who you are and how you want to live. And funnily enough, I did art 12 or 15 years ago which dealt with gender and gender confusion. And Judith has done a lot with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She works on theological-political issues and how they relate to each other. When she saw Local Angel the first time, my first movie, she invited me to Berkeley and it created a really good dialogue between us. We do not always agree with each other, but if you check Zizek, Butler, Badiou, Ronell ... they doīall try to understand the origin of politics in a very different way. Thatīs my field. We have in common that we donīt give up thinking, we donīt give up emotion. We donīt respect the split that people make between heart and brain.

AVIVA-Berlin: Judith Butler and Slavoj Zizek have written wonderful reviews of your film ...

Udi Aloni: Yes, Zizek wrote that Mechilot is like emotional thinking. That may be the biggest compliment you can get for this film. To bring together emotion and thinking is one of the aims of the film. Usually people believe: When you are intellectual it means you donīt have heart. When youīre emotional it mean youīre stupid. I try to destroy the split between brain and heart with my film. As an artist, I try to do something on this on a very seductive way ...

AVIVA-Berlin: And destroy the split between Palestinians and Israelis?

Udi Aloni: Yes, absolutely ...

AVIVA-Berlin: Judith Butler plays with gender identities. Do you want to play with identities, too?

Udi Aloni: The identities cross. I donīt try to define this identity of Israelis, or Palastanians ... I want to think about the crosses of creating identity.

AVIVA-Berlin: I really love the scene in which the Israel soldiers dance to Arabic music ...

Udi Aloni: This scene is one of my most favourite scenes in the movie. Because itīs a positive dream. This beautiful dance, thatīs always like a Sufi dance, a Muslim thing. Israeli soldiers singing Arabic and what do they sing, they sing: The father sings to his son. Son, Come back to your land. I have this image that all the Jews and Palestinians are sitting on Israel, Palestine, this land, and singing this song: My son, come back to your land, it belongs to you, to your son, to your grandson. Isnīt it terrible, two nations are going to kill each other for this land? Why not do this big Sufis dance? Let us invite the Palestinians and the Jews and dance this wonderful Sufi dance together. Thatīs one of my biggest, biggest dreams. I donīt have the dream to wake up and not to see any Palestinians. For me waking up and there not being any Palestinians would be my worst nightmare. Itīs something so beautiful about the two nations living there. Any homogenic culture seems hell to me. But the film is not only about Israel itīs about how Europe deals with the Moslems. Itīs about the difference of identities that people should celebrate. Itīs about different cultures which influence each other. Itīs about fucking with each other, fighting with each other. Try to create something new, create new identities. And that shouldnīt be one new identity. For Butler itīs very important that you have to keep your own identity, that you have your place from which do you speak. Iīm speaking as a Jew, my movie speaks as a Jew, with Jewish mythology and with Jewish faith.

AVIVA-Berlin: Thank you very much for the interview and your wonderful film!

Juedisches Leben erstellt: 21.02.2006