third season of Ramyo Yusuf’s award winning show RamyoWhich dropped on Hulu in late September, saw the titular American-Egyptian hero cut a business deal with a tough-talking diamond merchant clan in an episode titled egyptian cigarettes,
Naive to the realities of the 74-year Middle East conflict, he gets a taste of life on both sides of Israel’s controversial isolation wall.
In between meetings with his new Israeli allies at a luxury villa, he squeezes in a date with a Palestinian girl in East Jerusalem on the other side of a checkpoint, where his actions will result in a local teenager being detained by the Israeli military. .
International productions set in Israel and the West Bank rarely shoot in either region. Most of the heads of neighboring Jordan, and sometimes Morocco, fear the prospect of a flare-up in conflict, in which both Israel and Palestine have resorted to violence.
However, Yusuf and his producers, along with a prominent Palestinian filmmaker, opted to film the episode on location in Jerusalem. Annemarie Jasiro in the director’s seat.
Zakir, best known internationally for her feature films salt of the sea, when i saw you And reasonablesaid that an important factor in their consent to join the project was the way Youssef and co-author Maitha Alhasen chose to show the everyday reality of Palestinians against the backdrop of the conflict.
“The script was really funny, but it was also something I hadn’t seen before,” she explains.
“We’ve never seen a mainstream American show that shows how cruel the Israeli military is, especially to children; or the Palestinians being denied entry and interrogated, all the time just because they’re Palestinian. And of course, Americans rarely see apartheid walls and checkpoints, or kids getting arrested. I couldn’t believe an American network was okay with that.”
Jasir is a proponent and shaker on the independent Palestinian cinema scene. Along with making her own films, she also co-operates Palestine and with Palestine filmmaker husband Osama Bawardi, a Jordan-based production company that has developed a local pool of trained and experienced crew over the years.
The company has recently collaborated on other Arab-language features, including Honey Abu Asad’s Bethlehem-set psychological thriller Huda’s SalonSyrian Revolution drama by Rana Kazakz and Anas Khalaf translatorand American director Brandt Anderson’s upcoming drama stranger case, Starring Omar C
With artist sister Emily Zakir, filmmaker Dar Yusuf Nasri Zakir for the Arts and Research Center in a traditional 19th-century stone house that has been in his family for generations. Also co-founder. ,
Ramyo Shooting in May 2022 was mainly due to film in Jerusalem, but tensions escalated in the city after the Israeli military killed a veteran US-Palestinian Al Jazeera journalist. Shirin Abu Akleho In the West Bank city of Jenin on May 11.
It was decided to move most of the filming to Haifa, with Zakir’s longtime art director Nel Kanz and crew having two sets, one rebuilding the checkpoint, the other a section of the isolation wall. Filming also took place against the backdrop of the actual wall in a village outside the port city.
grew up in New Jersey, American-Egyptian stand-up comedian, actor and Ramyo Producer Yusuf is credited with breaking fresh ground in America with the show’s authentic portrayal of the realities of the Arab diaspora, particularly the Muslim faith.
Did they manage to hit the same level of authenticity with their Middle Eastern episode? Zakir thinks yes.
“It’s ultimately a story about a naive Arab American character who thinks that’s what he’s doing, that it’s normal for conservatives to fly to Israel with people and for an American audience, it’s normal. But once When he is on the field here, it becomes very clear how unusual the situation is,” she says.
“Rami is a very gullible guy on the show. He reads situations the wrong way. He’s constantly putting his foot in his mouth, saying inappropriate things, and just taking it too far. It’s the comedy and the drama in the show. Dark is the source of both. He’s so naive that he tells the Palestinian girl on his date that passing through the checkpoint is like going through the Lincoln Tunnel, only you don’t have to pay… the real Rami on the other hand is super smart. He’s a really cute guy, but he’s not gullible. He’s very familiar with what’s going on here.”
Although Zakir was eventually directing from a screenplay by Yusuf and Alhasan, they discussed the story and cultural details in depth before agreeing to work together.
“I had to make sure we were on the same page. Remy knows exactly what he wants to do, but he’s also very open. He said, ‘Look, I’m not a Palestinian. I’m not from there That’s why I’m coming to you,” Zakir explains.
“The episode date is based on a personal incident of his own when he passed through checkpoints to meet a girl. We talked a lot about that scene. Rasha is a great character,” says Jasir, noting the role is played by local actress Yara Jarrar.
“We discussed the idea of religious identity. It’s very important when Rasha says that the situation is not about religion. For me, she speaks for most of us Palestinians in that view, and the fact that here What is happening is about the land and not about religion at all,” she explains.
“We don’t like to put religion in the middle of things because we’re living in a place where you are allowed to do things or do things based on whether you are Jewish or not.” Zakir, who as a Palestinian living in Israel is subject to the country’s 2018 Jewish nation-state Basic Law.
An important non-negotiable ground rule for Zakir is that no member of his crew is a current or recent member of the Israeli military.
“I work here in a very specific way. I have my own Palestinian party here. There are a lot of things that don’t go well for me. It’s occupied by the military. I don’t participate in government-sponsored things. I’m not set like that.” I want to keep it where there are people serving in the army,” she says.
“It’s a living military business. It is not a thing of the past, it is a thing of the now and things are very tense here,” she adds. “To set a film where you have crew members who are Israeli, and who are in the military or have served in the military on one side, and Palestinians on the other, that’s not the normal way for me to work. Our house (Dar Yusuf Nasri Zakir) was looted by the Israeli army less than a year ago. I can’t work with a squad where I think one of them could have been involved.
Zakir insisted that he was clearly not against working with Israelis, noting the presence of Israelis for the first time. salt of the sea,
Ramyo Also available for Middle East and North African audiences through OSN+. Zakir revealed that he has had different reactions from different Palestinian communities on the show.
She states that Palestinian friends in America have expressed discomfort over some scenes in the episode.
“I got some backlash from people saying maybe the show needs a trigger warning. I said, ‘What do you mean by that?’ He responded, “For us Palestinians, to see that kind of violence on screen, to see kids getting arrested is really disturbing”, explains Zakir.
“I found that interesting. For me, from the very mundane forms of violence I experience here, to the really violent situations in which I’m trapped, I really like to work and talk about it.” I feel important,” she adds.
The scene in which a Palestinian teenager is held up by an Israeli military patrol unit touches on the sensitive issue of the Israeli military’s arrest of children and their detention in adult prisons. Zakir refutes a suggestion that the scene trivializes the incident.
“If you watch by the end of the season, you will see that it is not making light of it. It is drawing attention to what is happening,” she says.
“The two young actors, who play the (arrested) boy and his friend, belong to Janine. I know they feel like me. They have arrested their friends like this. They can be arrested like this any day. No one is safe. It is very personal for them. They are very proud that they are able to tell that story.”
In terms of the actual shooting, Zakir says the process was not fundamentally different from working on a feature for the crew.
“We have done many co-productions over the years, so we are used to working with international crews who come with us for short periods of time to shoot. What was different for me was that Remy was the show runner. He is the producer of the show and ultimately all the creative decisions were his, not mine. In TV, the director is a technician like any other crew member,” she says.
“The other difference was that all the producers were on the sets. I’ve never worked on a production before where all the producers are sitting behind a monitor with headphones on. They were lovely people and easy going but you don’t usually have that on set. Independent Palestinian cinema is a very different ball game. ,
The pace at which the episode was shot was eye-opening even for the director, who admits he likes to take his time.
“The episode is of around 30 minutes. My director’s cut came in 43 minutes and we shot it in five days,” she says. “It’s crazy. I usually take six weeks to shoot an hour and a half. I love slow motion. I also really like rehearsals. I really need that time and I’d enjoy that time.” And I think a lot comes out of that time.”
Zakir reveals that she would love to work with him Ramyo The team reunites if the show returns to the Middle East in future seasons but admits that his first love remains cinema.
“I love that team. I love them. I love how they worked. I love collaboration. If they come back with another episode and I love the episode, of course I I will do it,” she said.
,I am a feature film person but I am not close to TV. If there is anything I feel I can make mine, which is close to me, I will definitely do it.”
“Of course, TV and streaming bring in a larger audience, but for me there is nothing quite as satisfying as being in a cinema and watching movies with people and watching something on the big screen. Its speed and the experience of seeing something collectively. I don’t think anything can take its place.”