MOVIES Dancing for Peace, Five Questions to Eran Riklis

RiklisBy Massimo Benvegnù*

Eran Riklis, your latest film arrives here in a crucial moment when the eyes of the World are pointing to Israel.
I want to make a very simple statement – everybody wants peace. Everybody. Even the prime minister wants it. Everybody living in the Middle East right now, the Jews, the Arabs, the Palestinians, and not just the people of Israel but also of all the other countries of that part of the World which have been affected by conflicts. In Arabic there is a word that expresses this concept – khalas. Enough, basta.

Can you tell me about the screening in Jerusalem?
The film was supposed to open the Jerusalem Film Festival, but they feared for security so it was postponed. We ended up showing it to a small audience a week later, so technically tonight it’s not a International Premiere, but for me it feels like one, as it is the first time my film is seen by such an international, and big audience.

Do you fear the film will be only seen as political now?
I hope not. As artists, we are not commentators, we are involved observers. I believe that this is simply a story about how it is to be part of a minority surrounded by a majority, when you are asked to sacrifice a part of yourself in order to fit in society. In that, it is a universal story, that could take place anywhere.

Why the title Dancing Arabs?
It’s the dance of life. Can be a tango, can be a waltz. Nobody dances in the same way. Sometimes you’re alone on the dance floor, sometimes you’re surrounded by loving people.

The Piazza Grande has been very kind to you in the past. You won the Prix du Public UBS twice here. What are your fondest memories of Locarno?
The first time I came here was ten years ago, with The Syrian Bride. We knew we had a potential winner in our hands, but I will never forget what happened to me and the cast when we walked back from the Piazza Grande to the Grand Hotel after the screening. People sitting in the cafes along the way recognized the actors and started applauding as we passed. A standing ovation in the middle of the street, simply unbelievable ! Then, I remember that during the screening of The Human Resources Manager in 2010, right before the end, as in the film it starts snowing, it started raining for real in the square. At first I was worried about the rain, then I realized instead that something magical was taking place…

*Massimo Benvegnù is an Italian journalist and film critic