Settlers

Tag: Settlers

There is nothing quite like a female Israeli airline security guard

During the 14 months I spent in Israel making my 2000 film Settlers I spent many hours being questioned by the security boys and girls at Ben Gurion airport as I travelled in and out of the country… So it is from experience that I know they hate it when you get annoyed by their questions – obviously I always make sure to take great offence and obviously I always get annoyed when stopped for questioning, but today is different, today I approached the guards with a gleeful smile, knowing already that I would definitely be in for a question or two because of the Syrian stamp in my passport.

I am stopped by two female security guards… “Where are you going today” they ask, “Beirut” I say.. “Oh really, why?”, they ask, “I’m filming there”, “Why did you go to Syria?” “To film” I say.. “Ah you are a brave man” the two women say almost flirtingly, It’s going well so far I think to myself. “Did you make any friends in Syria?” they ask, “Yes” I reply, “Why would you do that?” they ask, “I need to know people to make films” I tell them, “But do you STILL know them?” the girls ask, “Yes” I answer, suddenly I get the feeling that the women are no longer flirting, the rubber finger is getting closer to my ass unless I get better control of this interview.

So I go for broke and play (what I hope will be) the winning card, and one which happens on this occasion to be the truth… I tell them that the Syrians I had been filming were now living in Beirut because they had to flee Syria in October last year after I was arrested and held secretly in a high security Damascus prison for a week. Thankfully the girls faces soften, and a sense of the relief comes over me as the rubber finger retreats and I begin to win back control of the encounter.

They both go away for a private whispering session looking at me “flirtingly” out of the corners of their eyes. They return, handing me my passport, “Mr Sean.. You are very cool, one women says.. you can enter this way no problem, in that direction”. “Where will you be going next after Beirut?” one of the women asks as I move along, “I leave Beirut for Athens in a few days where I am starting a new film” I explain, the woman look surprised and excited, “This is the new Nazi land of Europe” the perceptive women tell me, “Yes” I tell them, “The neo Nazi’s just got 8% of the vote – these are very dangerous times in Europe”. I tell them the story of how I arrived in Athens last month and was tear gassed within 2 days at an open air party set up by anarchists who keep the police out of “their” part of town.

The women look very impressed and I feel calm, no rubber fingers coming my way now I think to myself. “You are a very brave man” they tell me, “You go to all the hot spots in the world and you put your self in the fire”, I smile and tell them that the bravest thing I’ve ever done is taken on the two of the most feared security women in the world at Israel’s Ben Gurion airport. They both smile, laugh flirtingly again, and usher me on my way.

The festival circuit

20 March 2009

I was at the wonderful ‘One World Festival’ in Prague last weekend, it was great to see how big it has grown since my film ‘Settlers’ opened it in 2000. Sadly on my arrival I got an email from Samir (from my film ‘The Liberace of Baghdad’), he is now living in USA but wrote to say he has prostate cancer and will soon be undergoing 42 days of radiation treatment. That evening I sat by the grand piano in the foyer of the beautiful 1930s cinema and missed him dearly. I was in Prague to show my latest film ‘Japan; A Story Of Love And Hate’, the cinema was packed and it was voted the 4th favourite film by the audience the next day. Not bad out of 300 films.

Today I arrived in Porto, Portugal, and I am heading to small village festival (with my Japan film) just over the border in Spain. A place called Tui. But no-one has come to meet me, so I am on a bus trying to make my own way there.

I am getting flash-backs to the time I showed a film here, in 1998(?), I was with with Kev from ‘Working For the Enemy’ no-one showed up to meet us and no one came to see the film.

But, I tell myself, this festival is over the border in Spain… I just hope there is an audience at tonight’s 22:30 showing of my film – Mind you I don’t even know if I will be there yet.