It was a pleasure to have Rakan Mayasi talk with Arts Muse Magazine about his film Bonboné.
To begin with, what inspired you to tell a story like Bonboné?
Belonging to the Palestinians in diaspora, and having never been to Palestine, because it is near to impossible, I discovered this subject by reading plenty of articles and researching about underground subjects tackling the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, considering it is my identity. I thought that this subject is mesmerising. I found it to be so beautiful because it is about defiance, using love and life – how creative! And cinematic. I think such a story needs to be told, the world needs to know that such a phenomenon exists.
Tell us about the casting process.
The casting process was not a classical one. I had written the script while thinking about the actors I worked with. I have seen them acting or performing in other films and I thought often about them as I wrote the script.
What was it about Saleh Bakri and Rana Alamuddin that made you decide that they were the perfect people to play the Palestinian couple?
The film has love and beauty in the foreground and that is the main language. Saleh and Rana match together very well and they’re both beautiful people. Their faces break the stereotypes of the ‘Palestinian’ – the ones our eyes are used to see perhaps in the news and so on…And as I find it my responsibility to deconstruct stereotypes, I wanted to work with them since the beginning, as my approach is to defy the cliche.
Where there any difficulties you encountered whilst making this film? If so, what were they?
Plenty of difficulties. Saleh Bakri’s visa to Lebanon came out 1 day before the shoot. We didn’t have enough money to finish the film, so we continued the shoot despite that – on credit! We eventually raised the money and finished it. We had to construct the Israeli jail because Lebanese jails are different.
Who and what are your influences as a filmmaker?
I believe if one wants to be universal, they must get back to their roots. I believe my cause as a Palestinian is my identity and I always like to see things from a different point of view; perhaps a new approach to subjects our eyes got used to with time and practice. I feel it is my responsibility as an artist to dig into the underground and try to find stories the world needs to see and hear. It is my duty as well to deconstruct stereotypes and challenge taboos. Master filmmakers have influenced my approach to Cinema and my view on life, and those include Abbas Kiarostami, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Christian Mungiu, Michel Khleifeh, Coen Brothers. I would read anything by Milan Kundera and Hussein Barghouthi. I think and see images in terms of music, although I do not play any instrument, I continuously search for new music that captures my ears and puts me in a visual trance.
What message do you want people to take away from this film?
I never have an intention to deliver a message to the audience. I am interested in raising questions about certain subjects I find interesting and deserve to be told. If someone watches the film and decides to receive a message, they can do so at their will, but it is not my intention. I like to raise questions of existence: why do we need to do all of this just to conceive, while others do so easily?
Describe Bonboné in one word.
Why should people go and see Bonboné?
It is a universal story and anyone can relate to it while tackling the Palestinian/Israeli conflict from a new angle. It’s also a creatively sexy take on the Palestinian struggle.
What would your advice be to couples that want and desire a child but their other half is incarcerated?
I do not believe I am in a place to give any advice to a couple that desires a child, while their other half is incarcerated. I can see the difficulties and challenges in that but I am in no way an expert.
What are your next projects?
I am currently developing my first feature film, with the working title DE FACTO, and won the development grant from the Asian Cinema Fund (Busan International Film Festival, Korea) to write the script. And I also pitched the project in CINEMED in Montpellier last week where I also won the writing residency in Greece. I quit my job and now I am completely free to work on the script, and very excited to begin the writing process.