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.