Ehab Tarabieh studied Classic Violin at the Damascus Greater Institute for Music and Film in Jerusalem. For the previous decade, Ehab has been in charge of the video division at B&rsquorTselem, documenting human rights violations in occupied Palestine. His earlier quick films have won various prizes, like Greatest Quick Film at Doha Tribeca Festival for The Forgotten and a nomination for a European academy award for Smile and the Planet will Smile Back. Of Land and Bread was Ehab&rsquors function documentary debut that celebrated its globe premiere at IDFA. The Taste of Apples is Red is his very first function length film.
On the occasion of “The Taste of Apples is Red” screening at Thessaloniki International Film Festival, we speak with him about the Druze society, living in the Golan Heights, the spot of girls in the Middle East, goats and dogs, and several other subjects.
Why did you choose to concentrate your story in the specific region?
I was born and raised in this region, in the Golan Heights and my loved ones are Druze and religious. so it was extremely fascinating for me to discover my cultural history and my neighborhood. That is why I believed of carrying out one thing about this neighborhood, and also due to the scenario with the war in Syria and what is taking place there. I myself am Syrian, but I was born immediately after Israel occupied the Golan Heights, so I did not have any expertise with that war. I believed to myself that I don&rsquort have the appropriate to speak about the war there for the reason that I don&rsquort know how they really feel. But I decided to do it according to my feelings as somebody becoming at the border, and speak about how I see this dictatorship Bashar al-Assad and his father&rsquors regime, and what is carrying out with the Syrians, Bashar al-Assad and his father&rsquors regime. This was the starting of considering about these types of points. The other purpose is that Druze think in reincarnation  and I obtain it, as a filmmaker, a extremely fascinating element to use even though telling a story. I am a large fan of the magical realism college in cinema. I don&rsquort think about myself a filmmaker for the reason that I am nonetheless exploring the way, I just created a documentary film in 2019 about the life of Palestinians, so I&rsquorm just attempting to take out the tips that I am considering. The medium that I know to do so is filmmaking.
Do you think in reincarnation?
(laughter) Not definitely. I hear a lot of stories, my parents think in it, for the reason that it is the core of their religion. I respect these beliefs, but I nonetheless doubt it all the time.
How does the Druze society function?
Druze have been Muslims for thousand of years, but they separated from Islam and produced their personal religion. They have their personal Book, the Book of Wisdom. They think primarily in reincarnation and they think that their quantity will be equal all the time, their numbers do not raise or reduce. So, if somebody dies, then somebody will be born in various generations, and then they also think in Greek philosophers for instance. Plato for them is a prophet, Jesus is a higher prophet but not the highest one particular, so it is a mix of a variety of religions like Judaism and Christianity and Islam and also they have several similarities with Buddhism in some techniques. It is not a strict religion, but there is an aspiration involving people today like me who are not religious and the ones who are. So, for instance, I am not permitted to study the Book of Wisdom. I have to be religious to discover what this religion is about.  I believe the purpose is that they had been chased as a minority in the previous, and that is why they created it a secret and it is a tradition till our days.
How does one particular come to be a Sheikh like the protagonist?
You want to go to a holy spot, a sort of mosque for the Druze and you want to ask the greater priests to join them and you want to do it constantly for a couple of months and then they give you the permission to be religious. Then you shave your head and you want to raise a beard and then you come to be a priest.
Are the characters in the film primarily based on genuine people today?
I can say yes, they are not specific people today but they represent people today who are religious, people today who are supporting the Assad regime, while he is killing his people today and also the other side, the ones who are against the regime. My principal character is a religious man but in contrast with other films from the Middle East, who are displaying all the time these kinds of people today as primitive and with out dilemmas and ethics, in my film, he is a excellent man, while he is religious. He is like me and you and he has his personal dilemmas and he struggles all the time to be a excellent man.
What about the rape in the film, is it primarily based on actual events?
Not specifically. You could hear stories like that in the previous, but not now, now the society is fully distinct. You can hear these stories, not only in the Druze neighborhood, but also in the Muslim and Arab globe, and Third Planet nations.  A man rapes a lady and runs away, and then they marry her to his brother, to prevent a large shame and it is a sort of judgement towards them. But I created it up for the sake of the story.
Inform me a bit about the goat scene, the most memorable in the film I guess.
(laughter) For starters, goats do not consume babies, I do not believe anybody believes this. This episode is not about minorities, it is about minorities in the Middle East, and how I believe they believe how to survive. When they want to survive, they want a strong regime or manage authority to safeguard them, for the reason that they really feel they want somebody to safeguard them from the other folks. Largely, minorities are supporting the leaders of regimes in any nation, or they are for the dictators. I saw a lot of harsh videos of incidents in Syria and I believe it is absurd what we are seeing because 2012, and I think there had been far more beneath the manage of Assad the father. Then, I told myself that when you see a soldier as a human and he is killing some innocent man and he is taking his heart and he is consuming his heart, it is absurd. I told myself that there should really be a scene in the film that is displaying this absurdness. When you see a goat, which is a extremely sort animal, carrying out the deed they did in the film, you will really feel it is one thing crazy. None of the characters in the film argue the incident, it is specifically like how no one particular is arguing what is taking place in Syria in reality, no one particular is arguing why no one particular is stopping this dictator from killing his people today and it continues all the time. It is a sort of a metaphor.
Inform me a bit about the medical doctor, for me she is the most tragic character of all.
I am continuously considering about the part of girls in Middle East societies and it is a reality that they are treated as people today much less than guys. They are the ones that are taking all the scenes, and all the complex difficulties of guys and all the social difficulties and they place it inside and they can not do something about it Selma is the one particular who understands anything and she is the one particular who is holding the show of her society as effectively. And that is why, mainly, she does not speak but she reacts to what is taking place and she is difficult her father, as effectively as absolutely everyone else. I believe the scene with Ahmed, her husband, when he returns, is the most critical scene for her character for the reason that he hugs her but she feels one thing rotten in him. It is not his smell but the smell of blood that he brings with him. Ladies like my mother for instance are extremely sturdy, but reside in a society that they will often be much less than guys. I see this is how these societies treat girls and I wanted to implement this in the film as a lady character
When is the story taking spot?
It is about 2015, throughout the war in Syria, when the war was at its peak, on its greater level.
Inform me about Daud, as quickly as I saw him on screen I knew he was a crook. Also about the casting.
I was extremely fortunate to have this cast, all the actresses and actors are the most effectively identified Palaistinian/Israeli actors and actresses. Daud is played by Suheil Haddad and he is from Jaffa. He is primarily acting in theater but I found him and I told him he required to be Daud. In genuine life, he is a excellent man (laughter). He represents all the guys that they are taking benefit of war, for the reason that there are often people today like that throughout wars. He is the one particular who represents this sort of people today, he is the villain for the reason that he has also carried out several negative points and one particular of the points is that he raped Lamia. He is not supporting Assad or Israel, he is dealing with absolutely everyone just for his personal interest. However, one particular of our main difficulties from my point of view in the Middle East is this sort of people today. This is a reality and we have to face it all the time. Basically, he represents the Assad regime and he is the one particular connecting people today from the Golan Heights beneath Israeli occupation with the Syrian regime.
Can you inform me a bit about the cinematography in the film?
The cinematographer is a excellent pal, his name is Yaniv Linton. I believe we just wanted to go with the characters and with the place. We didn&rsquort definitely have a extremely precise shooting and several of the scenes had been planned the very same day and we wanted to go with the actors as effectively, and really feel how they will move in the space and then to shoot. It was a continuous discussion involving me and him and also involving him, me and the cast. I like paintings, colors and light, and we spent a lot of time on lighting in this film, for the reason that there are a lot of evening scenes as effectively. The principal way we did it had been stills, nonetheless frames and a tiny bit of moving. As if the camera is floating into this space, and from time to time it should really be at a standstill so we go with the feeling of every single moment in the film and this was what we attempted to do, merely.
How was your cooperation with the actors? Specifically because they are veterans and you are a reasonably new director.
It was an remarkable expertise I admit, for the reason that I just sent them the script and all of them just accepted. We did not do any rehearsals ahead of the shooting, we just talked a lot about the film. Since Druze have a dialect, it is not the usual Arabic communities like the Palaistinians for instance, so it took them a tiny bit of time to recognize the dialect. Also, I wanted them to recognize specifically the depth of every single character and the subtext of every single sentence they say. It was a continuous dialogue and there had been queries they asked and I required to give them answers, and it was so difficult.
Did you enable improvisation?
I think in permitting all the time for the reason that I am providing them the dialogue and I am telling them to do what ever they want. Since if they get the subtext, I don&rsquort care what they are carrying out. This was the way of functioning with them, except for the two children, for the reason that they had to be precise with their dialogue.
Can you give me some facts with the scene exactly where the dog draws the goat away.
It was a challenging scene. The producers insisted on carrying out CGI but I denied, and told them we want to obtain a educated dog that his owner can teach it how to do it. So we went to the place one particular week ahead of the shooting and the owner of the dog is a expert dog trainer. He place meat into a bag and practiced with the dog how to draw the bag into the cave. The dog is  a Czech shepherd and it is extremely related to wolves, it is the dog closest to wolves basically. It is extremely clever but also extremely aggressive. We did it in the finish.
How several requires did it take?
Not a lot basically, four-five and then she did it, it was basically a female.
Can you inform me about the editing? I felt that the film is extremely economical and there are no unnecessary scenes there.
We shot the film throughout Covid and we had just 15 days to shoot. It was a tight schedule and we shot for several hours and then the very first reduce was about two hours extended. At some point, I study about a extremely renowned editor, I don&rsquort don’t forget his name. He stated that the most critical issue in editing is to give up scenes that you don&rsquort want. So I gave up a lot of scenes for the reason that I believed I did not want them and then I believed that the film is slow-burning and it was so slow, so we want to give it a bit of rhythm. Then we got to minimizing anything and to reduce all points that had been unnecessary, even if they had been gorgeous cinematically but they don&rsquort help the progression of the story.
Is it painful cutting scenes?
Not for me, basically, it was far more painful for the editor (laughing), there are scenes she wanted to maintain, but I told her if the film performs with out it, then we don&rsquort want it. It was difficult in the starting but then she understood my point. My final film was a documentary and I edited myself. It is an archive footage film, no interviews or something else, just archive raw footage that Palaistinians shot. It was about 5000 hours and it was throughout editing that I discovered that you want to give up a lot of excellent points for the sake of the film and for the sake of your vision on how to inform the story in a extremely quick time. That is why I think quick films are far more challenging than producing a function film. Since you want to present your tips and inform your story in a extremely short period.
I am sorry if this query is extremely individual, but do you now determine as Israeli or Syrian?
No, it is a extremely critical query. I am Arab/Syrian, I don&rsquort hold any passport, I have Israeli travel documents and my nationality is &lsquoundefined&rsquor. You want a visa everywhere you want to go and you want to fill out a lot of documents and to prove that you are not going to run away and reside in Greece for instance. I got utilized to it.
And exactly where are you living now?
In the Golan Heights. I utilized to reside in Jerusalem and ahead of in the Czech Republic for six years. But I got married and have two children now, so I got back to the roots.
What is the scenario with Syrian cinema currently?
Assad and his son had been extremely restrictive towards cinema. There are several good filmmakers, one particular of them is Orwa Nyrabia who is now the artistic director of IDFA. There are several good filmmakers who reside abroad, for the reason that they do not have the freedom to make the films they want in Syria.
Are you functioning on any new projects?
There are tips but because I have children, two and four years old, I believe this is my most complex project currently. I am starting to create one thing but it is not going to be about the Golan Heights. I am a large fan of animation, like Studio Ghibli for instance. I believe my subsequent project will be one thing far more surrealistic and with animation