Friday, February 04, 2011

Jerasulem Gay Pride - Nitzan Galady - INTERVIEWS


Documentary Director Nitzan Galady is a guest of this year's Melbourne Queer Film Festival, he talks with Paul Andrew about difficult questions he poses in his latest film about gay pride in Jerusalem.

Documentary filmmakers enjoy sinking their teeth into difficult questions - love, identity, resistance, and the search for belonging. Jerusalem is Proud To Present is a feast of difficult questions. Director Nitzan Galady’s award winning documentary chronicles the people, the events, the oppositional forces leading up to and during the 2006 World Pride March. And for this Director the most difficult question of all - “How do you organise a sparkling gay pride march in a holy city?”

Galady is no stranger to the search for belonging. Eldest child of Yemenite Jewish parents Galady grew up in Israeli society and as a Yemenite came to know quite early in life about challenges faced people searching for identity.
 “Yemenites are a minority and as a child I was very sensitive to this. As a Yemenite I was teased at school because I didn't conform. I looked different my accent was different. This probably helped to create my fascination and particular interest for the idea of how an outsider exists within an outside community", the filmmaker says. "These aspects of justice and injustice as experienced by minority groups are also raised in my earlier films, including The Last Enemy about a theatrical collaboration between Palestinians, Jordanians and Israelis, and In Satmar Custody, focusing on a young Yemenite couple as they are being introduced into an orthodox Hasidic sect in New York”
Galady arrived at documentary quite accidentally, through friendship. He studied acting, firstly in Tel Aviv and in New York at the Circle in The Square School. 
“ In New York, I shared an apartment with an Israeli actress named Mili Avital, quite famous in Israel. Mili was 'discovered' in a restaurant in 59th Street and offered a role a $40 million Hollywood sci-fi film called Stargate. It was then that I bought my first video camera, to document her. A few years later, I offered this footage to a commercial television channel in Israel, and was given the option by them to direct as a first-time, self-taught professional. This cancelled out any remaining ambitions I had to be an actor. In any case, it seemed the only acting roles I was being offered were as a Palestinian terrorist.
While Gilady clearly asserts that a Pride March is a celebration of difference, I ask him if he feels that a Pride March is also collective confession of sorts.

"To me a confession is something about which you are not fully secure, or which involves guilt. In the beginning it was hard for me to relate to gay pride marches because I couldn't see myself as being confident enough to participate. But as I became less worried about the perceived condemnation of others, I realized that being visible is an essential part of the battle."

"Until I finished the film, I didn't fully comprehend the true meaning of the parade and what it really means to physically march. I mean, look at my new sense of reality. Just last week, I was part of the Chief of Parade float dedicated to my friend the Olympic gold-medal diver Matt Mitcham, right up the front of the Sydney Mardi Gras Parade. Many people see parades as happy, cheerful events, but we need to remember that they have a deeper meaning and significance to those who live away from the centre.”

“ I can tell you one personal story in the film by which I am still intrigued to this day. It is the story of Boodi the gay Palestinian guy, a man who had to regularly smuggle himself from Ramala to Jerusalem, illegally crossing check-points, to find the liberty to perform in a drag show in the only gay bar in Jerusalem.  For him, these performances gave hope and joy, allowing him to be himself, because in Ramala, he was being threatened by Hamas due to his sexuality. Boody's open telling of his story to the camera was a further act of freedom and honesty."

Jerusalem Is Proud To Present screens as part of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival Wednesday 18 March. 

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