YIDFF 2011 New Asian Currents
we began by measuring distance
An Interview with Basma Alsharif (Director)

Continuing to Feel Distance

Q: Where do you live now?

BA: That’s a very interesting question. I was born in Palestine, a country with many problems, but spent most of my life in Chicago. I live in Chicago now, and have no idea if I will continue living there in the future. I went to Cairo in 2008 to make this piece, and I returned to Chicago just this July. My thinking differs from those whose lives center on the Middle East; I grew up not knowing how to relate myself to the problems of Palestine. The political issues may be addressed in newspapers, but I had no idea how to interpret them. I wanted to comprehend the incomprehensible, so I made this film.

Q: I was very impressed by the scene in which you hold a screen and display distances between cities on it. What were your thoughts in making this piece?

BA: This film contains a great amount of information: images, music and distances between cities. But I made it in such a way that audiences have no idea where or who this all is. I work not only as a filmmaker, but also as a visual artist. While I think this piece holds water as a film, I wanted to make it something that could be accepted as a nonfilmic work as well. I chose cities that have faced political problems and measured distances between them. However, this isn’t just distance as information. I think there is also a political nuance that gets across. Also, in the piece the narrator speaks out as if talking to someone, but we do not actually know to whom he is speaking. I don’t know if the images I use are good events or bad. I didn’t want to make anyone speak subjectively in this piece, and in the end I think it became something audiences can tie their individual selves to and think. I deal with the material city of Palestine, but I think the works I make can be understood and empathized with by anyone who watches them, regardless of their cultural background.

Q: Which would be why the title is not “I began by measuring distance,” but “we began.”

BA: Precisely. I don’t believe we have just one identity. Palestine, Egypt—the world has many borders. There are many people whose cultures are mixed from living in more than one place. This is the first time I’ve come to Japan, and though I’m asked if everything surprises me, in reality many things don’t. As globalizaiton advances, many people lose the feeling that they belong to a single group or nation, or that they have a single identity. What I really felt while making this piece was that from now on I have to continue to try thinking about the distance between myself and the world. I think this is true of any place, not just Palestine and Israel. I worked in Egypt as well, and realized there’s no place I really feel I can call home. No matter where you go, I think it is important to continue to think about the distance between you and places you do not know.

(Compiled by Iida Yukako)

Interviewers: Iida Yukako, Nomura Yukihiro / Interpreter: Kinoshita Yumiko / Translator: Kyle Hecht
Photography: Tanaka Miho / Video: Ichikawa Eri / 2011-10-08