I felt I had to take the story in this film away from its original setting and plant it in another land in order to maintain its integrity in an age of prevelant “pink washing” and “art washing”. We know that our experience of the world is at least partly a manifestation of the cultural space we inhabit – our vocabulary, our value system, our body language. Now, imagine yourself as someone living at the periphery of an empire. It could be Rome, late 1st century AD, or a different empire, in a different time. The times themselves are more or less peaceful, or so they seem. You live your life at the periphery of the empire. Your culture, the fabric of your understanding of the world, is inspired by the ebb and flow of that civilization.
You’re growing up at the periphery of that empire and only around adolescence do you realize you were only part of the periphery. Perhaps it’s not even a geographical periphery, so it was hard for you to realize that. I have heard people argue: “Everyone is in the periphery,” but I disagree with that. There are many people who are not. I remember, growing up in Ashkelon, Israel, that my old brother was surprised to find that his new high school did not have lockers like the ones he saw on the American TV shows.
Being a periphery is not just a matter of geography and distance. There could be tension, or a struggle, with which to contend. Certain territories/tribes/clans are abused, taken advantage of; and one day, you realize that your territory/tribe/clan is one of them. Your personal and intimate experience of the world, your selfhood, is a product of an oppressive mechanism that is turned against you. This realization profoundly alters how you feel toward your surroundings, even toward your own skin. Even toward films and music. You gnostically alienate yourself from physical matter: flesh, blood, bones.
The story I’m telling with my film, The Cage, takes place in the two fictional cities: Exalon and Lichtenberg, both inspired by places I know very well.
I grew up in Ashkelon on the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. It is a place that has been inhabited by many different people throughout thousands of years – Canaanites, Philistines, Hebrews, Palestinians, and now Israeli Jews. It was conquered by Alexander the Great, by the Crusaders, by the Mamluks, and by the Israelis. Only a few miles from Gaza, it is a border town, and occasionally a war zone – when the situation is heating up and rockets land there. It is a small industrial town – 60,000 inhabitants while I was growing up, but now a population closer to a little over 100,000.
I lived in Berlin for almost a decade. The city was going through a grand transformation, from a broken playground of punk existence into an undeclared capital of a shadowy empire. My home was most of the time in its middle-eastern quarters, Kreuzberg and Kreuzkoelln, but I did spend a half-year in the white working-class borough, Lichtenberg, where some shops were reluctant to sell you food if you had the wrong skin color, or you were pushed while walking the street because you weren’t white.
I tear apart voice and image, narration and performance, self and body. I work with acting as a sensual, sculptural process. I align myself with those meshing the sacred trinity of filmmaking: script, production, editing. I’m filming the story not on the Eastern Mediterranean Sea or in North Europe but in East Asia, in Korea and Taiwan. I chose these locations because in both Israel and in Germany, the mere choice that films make – to run their productions in those countries, is being twisted by the regimes for unethical political aims. World cinema, taking its day-trip away from the dwellings and into the woods, has long ago fallen into a nationalistic trap set up by internationalists. There is no point in placing a mirror from within. It’s dark and it’s narcissistic. I pull my production away and free my voice. Purify it. Let it mature.
Topologically, the cinematic space I have created now is an inside that has no outside: The Cage!