Route 181—Fragments of a Journey in Palestine-Israel
BELGIUM, FRANCE, UK, GERMANY / 2003 / Arabic, Hebrew / Color, B&W / Video / 270 min
Directors, Script, Editing: Michel Khleifi, Eyal Sivan
Photography: Philippe Bellaïche
Sound: Richard Verthe, Sari Ezouz
Producers: Omar Al-Qattan, Werner Dütsch, Michel Khleifi,
Production Company: Momento!
World Sales: Sindibad Films, Momento!
In the summer of 2002, a Palestinian and an Israeli filmmaker journeyed together through their homeland along what they called “Route 181”—the 1947 UN-designated line dividing Palestine into two. As the two filmmakers encounter and film Israelis and Palestinians of various backgrounds, they extract the hidden past and present. Their work exposes the problems of nation, race, borders, immigration and discrimination—problems faced not only by Israel and Palestine, but by all of us.
[Director’s Statement] Since the start of the second Intifada, in October 2000, there has been no end to the bloodshed in Palestine-Israel. Real walls and barbed wire reflect the solid mental walls in the minds of the citizens of both societies. What can film do in the face of such a desperate situation?
Faced with the tragic torments shaking our societies, we set out to perform a filmic act of faith. Both filmmakers and friends, as chance would have it, we were also born in the same territory. Today we both live in exile where, for more than fifteen years, we have pursued our respective film careers and continued our long friendship.
We made the joint decision to return to our country. The demarcation line of the partition plan for Palestine, voted upon by the UN in 1947, was our point of departure.
We followed this non-existent route independently of pre-established ideas. We filmed in such a way as to see things, men, women and places as a sum total not yet revealed. Carried along by chance meetings, together we listened to words, passions and disillusions. We tried to induce—first in ourselves, then in our subjects—a loving relationship with the everyday, one full of danger and encounter with death.
We are both convinced that the only truly ‘realistic’ solution for the future lies in the prospect of a state in which citizens, be they Jews or Arabs, live together. The tragic situation of Near-Eastern ‘reality’ is an ideological and pathological construct made by men. These same men are capable of de-constructing it. All we ask of this project is a shared experience. Without illusion or mystification, we are prepared to receive reality just as it is, in order to act on and with it.
Born in Nazareth, Michel Khleifi studied theater at INSAS in Brussels where he had emigrated in 1971. Works include Fertile Memory (1980), Maaloul Celebrates Its Destruction (1985), Wedding in Galilee (1987), Canticle of the Stones (1990) which won Special Prize at YIDFF ’91, L’Ordre du jour (1992) and Tale of the Three Jewels (1994–95). He also directed and wrote the play, Flight to Paradise.
Born 1964 in Haifa, Eyal Sivan grew up in Jerusalem. In 1985, he left Israel for France. Works include Izkor, The Slaves of Memory (1991), Jerusalem, Borderline Syndrome (1994), Aqabat-Jaber, Peace with No Return? (1995), The Specialist (1999), Au sommet de la descente (2001).