Director Jessica Habie speaks about her new film Mars at Sunrise, her story of imprisoned Palestinian painter Khaled, and his Israeli interrogator Eyal, himself a frustrated artist.
Photo Credit: Eyes Infinite Films
It’s rare to see a film about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that focuses on artists. What made you decide to tell the story from this angle?
I’ve always been interested in artists and how they can breathe life into stagnant conversations and political situations. Living in the Middle East, I saw firsthand how creative expression was squashed. In Palestine, you see how creativity is affected by the occupation. But you also think about having to do mandatory Israeli military service when you’re 18 or 19: Those are some of your most creative years.
The lead character in your film is neither the Palestinian artist nor the Israeli soldier, but a young Jewish American woman who learns of their story.
In Palestine, you see a lot of young women from the U.S. and elsewhere who have some connection to the region—many of them Jewish American, like myself—who see the heartbreak of what’s going on. When you witness something like that, you want to create a language with which to convey that to people outside that world.
What kind of dialogue do you hope to achieve with the film?
I hope it brings up questions of victimization and what you’re willing to let go of. Khaled decides to walk away rather than perpetuate the cycle of violence. People are also really responding to the character of Eyal, the soldier—an artist who’s had his creative heart hardened by the military. So, I hope the film will raise questions of the issue of militarism as an outdated conversation—not just in Israel but all over the world.