The idea is simple. Take a camera around Tel Aviv and ask people a very intimate question. If you were an Israeli Jew it is, “Would you have sex with an Arab?” and if you are Palestinian the question is the opposite. Then you wait for the response…
Yolande Zauberman, a French director popular for her eye-opening documentaries, asks the unthinkable in a country where disdain for the “other” ethnicity is seemingly genetic in her recent film, Would You Have Sex with an Arab? Zauberman, sauntering around bars and nightclubs in Israel’s most populated city, asks Tel Aviv the daunting question that makes people think about their personal opinions and reservations. As a spectator the range of responses seem confusing, sinister, even backwards perhaps. From, “If I find some Palestinian girl beautiful, why not?” to “It’s almost a crime to be a mixed couple.” Sarah Rashidian, a French speaking blogger, comments on the phenomenon that occurs with those who answer in the negative to the title question: “the viewers face an awkward moment where the interlocutor is torn between the obviousness in which he gives his answer and, at the same time, the lack of suitable explanation or logic that c(h)aracterizes it!” This film a huge conflict and breaking it down to the individual level, asking a very intimate question, and exploring the root on the answers given.
But perhaps latent meanings become overlooked when watching a film in an area reigned by political conflict. Alongside the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there exists, in my opinion, a more universal message: “Could you love someone you aren’t supposed to love?” Deep into the upbringing of the individual, this question asks a very difficult idea for someone to think about, and essentially Zauberman does it in an area laden with prejudice. But I honestly believe that a similar question can be posed to any of us and for a lot it would be a question too easily answered. I do, however, agree with Pierre Haski from Rue89, an online French media website, when he points out that the film isn’t about the “make love, not war” movement of the hippies, but instead is trying to stir up prejudices within individuals that transcend upon the world. It’s these prejudices that make loving, let alone liking, someone so difficult.
But perhaps this question is just over many of our heads because our situation is a bit different for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and therefore the question should only pertain to this area.
What do you think? Should evaluate similar questions in ourselves if we are removed from such an ethnically-contentious environment? Or do you believe that there are still strong ethnic boundaries to who we love?
My final question is, based off your knowledge of the documentary what is Zauberman trying to accomplish?