For Ziad Doueiri, the Political is Also Personal

Written by Doug Strassler on . Posted in Arts & Film, Film.


Writer-director discusses The Attack

By Doug Strassler

Successful doctor Amin Jaafari (Ali Suliman)’s life as he knows it ends almost as suddenly as that of his wife’s, a victim of a suicide bombing who emerges as its perpetrator in The Attack, directed by Lebanese filmmaker Ziad Douieri, who also adapted the film from Yasmina Khadra’s 2006 novel. Amin is a secular Palestinian practicing in Tel Aviv, and Doueiri’s film shows that no matter what one’s personal choices may be, escaping the political turmoil in the Middle East may just be impossible.

Director Ziad Doueir, photo courtesy Cohen Media Group

Director Ziad Doueir, photo courtesy Cohen Media Group

“I liked the idea that it’s about a man at his peak falling down,” Doueiri explained about what draw him to the material – despite initially rejecting the project when first offered to him, “It takes place in the mid-East, and I wasn’t interested. We’re already saturated by this topic.”

But the human elements of the story caught him. “Amin is a man who must confront his failings and flaws,” Doueiri explained, citing such filmic influences as The Insider, Michael Clayton and The Verdict. “These films show you a character that has an incredible fall. They are not analysis. The things these people do are instinctual, when you think about it.”

In an interview conducted mere days after the Boston marathon bombing, conversation about The Attack addressed violence and human nature. “All my life I have questioned, ‘Are we inherently good bad or good?’ Doueiri said, “in the absolute sense of the word. We are inherently violent and savage.”

And yet through the character of Siham (Reymonde Amsellem), Amin’s ultimately enigmatic wife, both Doueiri and Attack question the psychology of violence in politically and religiously-motivated attacks, making Amin’s crisis both a topical but also a universal one.. “There are two horrendous acts in life – killing kids and killing one’s self. Joelle [Touma, the film’s co-writer] and I looked at the psychosis of suicide. What Siham does is not politically motivated. So what happens in a woman’s brain to do this? This is not in the script, but we wanted to understand what motivated such an act. Reymonde wanted to know – this is a cerebral woman, drained by over-analysis — there is an inner voice that say ‘don’t do it.’ To commit suicide bombings, it doesn’t take.”

Doueiri, a very personable and open conversationalist, himself admits to having his own crises of conscience, particularly in connection to Attack, which lost its financing. (Various backers have accused the film of being slanted in favor of Israelis, who emerge more as victims than Palestinians do in the film.) “I lost all faith in myself,” he said, “lost hope, lost confidence. There were lots of obstacles.” Doueiri, who has now filmed three movies in the Middle East (including his debut, West Beirut), summarizes his nearly decade-long Attack experience as “successful but difficult.”

“It’s taken a toll on me,” he added. “Next, I’ll do something easier.”

The Attack plays at the Angelika and the Beekman. More information at cohenmedia.net/the-attack/synopsis/

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