Interview with Mahdi Fleifel
After the Last Goal
Sanad Project - Documentary (Post-Production)
14.10.2011 -It is a long way from the
refugee camp of Ain El-Helweh in Lebanon to the shining city of
London, but for Mahdi Fleifel it is worth the travel. The young
Palestinian filmmaker whose shorts were successful in many
festivals has his new documentary project on his football loving
compatriots as part of SANAD selection.
The Young Will Forgetis about
the feeling of excitement invading Palestinian refugee camps during
the football World Cup. Considering that having no country means
having no chance to take part, what does this mean to
Actually, my new film is not so much about the World Cup but more
about memory and 'the need to remember'. The title The Young
Will Forget (its working title was After the Last
Goal) - refers to a quote by David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first
Prime Minister, who famously said about the dispossessed
Palestinians that, one day "The old will die and the young will
forget". Making this film for me has been a way of challenging
that. Forgetting for us Palestinians would simply mean ceasing to
exist. Our fight throughout history, and still today, is to remain
visible. Making my film is a way of reinforcing and strengthening
our collective memory. But most important, it was to make a record
of my own family history, a history of three generations, a record
of a dispossessed family living as refugees in Lebanon and
emigrants in Europe. Basically it is an attempt at exploring the
state of being in exile.
Since you spent your childhood in a refugee camp, we can
say you make movies there as a native. Could you describe any
special gift that you got from there as a filmmaker?
I am blessed to have the life I have today with all the
experiences and contradicting imprints it has left me with over the
years. Born in Dubai, raised in Ain El-Helweh and later Denmark,
and now living and working in London, I feel I have been blessed
with my own unique experience of being Palestinian. And being
Palestinian is a different story every time, depending on who you
ask. What unites us is the 1948 Nakba, our own personal 'Big Bang',
our reference point. Growing up with my father's sense of humor and
his curiosity to record his surroundings (he has always been
obsessed with video cameras) I have shared his enthusiasm and the
necessity to tell stories. And Ain El-Helweh is full of stories.
All you have to do is to sit at the market and listen to old men
gossiping about each other or reminiscing times past.
Your previous film Arafat & I told the
funny story of a young Palestinian boy who meets a girl with some
unbelievable characteristics, especially sharing a birthday with
Yasser Arafat. Is humor unique to a particular
I guess having grown up in Ain El-Helweh before moving to Denmark,
I have coped with transition in my life by seeing the world in a
rather comic and cynical way. I believe that my stories reflect my
history while at the same time being influenced by London, the
place where I currently live and work. Also, I think that
Palestinians, in particular from Zaffourieh, have a terrific sense
of humor, maybe only matched by Jewish or Balkan humor.
Your films usually mix the languages of documentary and
fiction in a unique way. Which one do you prefer?
I don't distinguish the two as such, but the authenticity in each
moment is crucial. I feel that finding the truth is the most
important aspect of any attempt to create cinema. I personally
enjoy combining the two 'forms', but I also respect that they each
have their own sensibilities and ways into the creation of a
cinematic experience, i.e. different working methods.