Road Movie is a new video installation opening at Plug In Inc.
It's about the road system in the West Bank and the people who use
those roads. The work sheds new light on the complicated relationship between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank.
It was created by the filmmaking team of Tamira Sawatzky,
who is originally from Winnipeg, and Elle Flanders.
SCENE wanted to find out more about about this project and Tamira Sawatzky was happy to oblige.
Trailer for Road Movie on Vimeo. (NFB)What story does Road Movie tell?
The piece is about the segregated roads that exist in the West Bank. There are two sets of roads that have been built by the Israeli military, one for settlers and/or Jewish Israelis and the other for Palestinians.
While the Palestinian roads are windy and picturesque they are impractical and now create incredible economic hardship for Palestinians having to travel from one place to the next as these roads take them much longer to travel and are not direct.
The Israeli roads are more like superhighways cutting through the landscape to get the most direct and fastest routes through, in and out, of the West Bank. If you are Palestinian you are not allowed on these roads. There are checkpoints and barriers all along them to control access.
So the film tells the story of 12 travellers, 6 Israelis and 6 Palestinians, who travel these roads at different times for different reasons. Ultimately, they tell the stories of the people, their lives, but in really poetic little snapshots as opposed to a more documentary fashion.
Can you pinpoint one moment, story, or encounter that motivated you to really dig into this subject?
We were asked by a friend of ours, an Israeli activist living in Ramallah, to photograph these roads for a report she was doing for an NGO.
Neta, our friend, took us on a driving tour and we started to uncover the surreal labyrinthine road system which segregated Palestinians and Israeli settler travellers.
We were shocked to see how, based on your license plate (green for Palestinian, yellow for Israeli settlers) you traveled completely different routes and roads.How do the experiences of the Palestinians and the Jewish settlers differ?
I guess it's all about privilege and 'rights' and who is controlled by whom. Despite belief to the contrary, Palestinians have no control over their lives.
The Palestinian Authority controls only 18% of the West Bank. Israel controls the rest, so as a Palestinian, you are controlled in your daily movement by the Israeli army, their rules, their laws. You are constantly stopped, questioned, restricted. Israelis on the other hand enjoy complete freedom of movement.Can you give an example of how this segregated system of roads affect the Palestinians?
Economically it is devastating. If you have to get to your job or haul goods in these round-about ways, it costs x amount more, twice as long, etc. I think there are also those who just stop bothering as things become too complex. Generally we take freedom of movement for granted, this makes that quite a glaring distinction.
Your last name is Sawatzky...I'm guessing you might be Mennonite? If so, did you grow up with pacifist values, and how were those values challenged by your experiences in Palestine?
Filmmaker Tamira Sawatzky (Tamira Sawatzky)
Yes, I am Mennonite (though not practicing) and the pacifist values I grew up with are some of the values I still hang on to.
In terms of my experience of Israel/Palestine we worked with both Israeli and Palestinian activists who believed in a peaceful solution to the conflict.
I don't think my pacifism was challenged but instead reinforced as the pervasive militarism in Israel has only worsened the conflict and Palestinians now only know soldiers now instead of people.
Tamira Sawatzky is an award-winning architect and artist working in Toronto. She was raised in Winnipeg and holds a B.A in English from the University of Winnipeg and a M.Arch from the University of Manitoba. She is the founder of Public Studio Architecture and Public Studio, a collaborative art practice. She is currently designing Public Studio's atelier in downtown Toronto.
Elle Flanders is a filmmaker and artist living in Toronto. She was raised in Montreal and Jerusalem. She holds both an MA in Critical Theory and an MFA from Rutgers University and is a graduate of the Whitney Independent Study Program. Her work has been screened and exhibited at the MOMA, MOCCA, the Berlinale, and festivals worldwide. She founded Public Studio, an itinerant artist collective, with Tamira Sawatzky. Flanders is a PhD candidate at York University where she also teaches.