Happy Birthday, Mr. Mograbi

ISRAEL, FRANCE / 1999 / Hebrew, Arabic, English / Color / 16mm /77min

Director, Script, Editing, Sound, Producer: Avi Mograbi
Photography: Eytan Harris, Ron Katzenelson, Itzik Portal, Yoav Gurfinkel, Oded Kimhi, Yoav Dagan
Co-producer: Serge Lalou-Les Films D'Ici
Source: Avi Mograbi
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Avi Mograbi

Born in Israel in 1956. Between 1979 and 1982 he studied philosophy at Tel Aviv University and art at the Ramat Hasharon Art School. Since 1982 he has been working as first assistant director in local and foreign feature films and commercials. Directed his first film Deportation in 1989. Filmography includes The Reconstruction (1994), How I Learned to Overcome My Fear and Love Arik Sharon (1997), and Relief (1999, video installation). As scriptwriter, A Tale That Starts With a Snakes Funeral (1993).

Israel is a place where government and society undergo sweeping change as a result of actual government policy decisions. This can be seen in the closely watched problems in Palestine. For reasons political and religious, the national governance is determined by the opposing labor and conservative parties as well as by religious parties, all of which have great influence not only domestically but internationally. What meaning do the past, present and future of Israel hold for those born after the founding of the nation in 1948? Avi Mograbi, who both made and appears in this picture, is a documentary filmmaker who was 42 years old at the time of the shoot. He was commissioned to produce a film in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of his country. He winds up being commissioned at the same time by a Palestinian to make a documentary film from the perspective of his people about what might be called the history of Israel from the reverse side. Jew and Arab. His position is complicated. That's because, through his shooting of the two pictures, he conversely faces an inconsistency: what is he himself, the maker of these films? To an Israeli the creation of art automatically carries political meaning. By producing a film on the history of his country and of himself, newly-emerging aspects, problems, and faults of Israel are brought into relief. It is a new type of private documentary, innovative and powerful, and at the same time it is a condensation of possibilities of the variously-evolving Israeli film scene of today. [Watabe Minoru]

Director's Statement
In 1997 my birthday fell two days before Israel's Independence Day celebration (the Israeli Independence Day is marked according to the Hebrew, lunar, calendar.) Since I had been in New York I celebrated my own birthday two days late on Independence Day. This coincidence provoked the thoughts that eventually became the nucleus of Happy Birthday, Mr. Mograbi. In 1998 Israel celebrated its 50th anniversary and I decided to celebrate my own anniversary on the same date even though my actual birthday was ten days later.
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.
For several months I wrestled with this idea but something was bothering me. I realized 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 story line 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.) Shots of ruined Palestinian houses and ruins of former Palestinian villages take over without warning.
I tried to make a film consisting of three different story lines that run through one man's consciousness. 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.

COPYRIGHT:Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Organizing Committee