Jacir grew up in Saudi Arabia. As a child, she and her family frequently visited relatives in Bethlehem. She spent a lot of time in Palestine, so when she entered the movie industry as a screenwriter many years later, she said it was only natural for her to write about the world she knew best.
Jacir said that while living in Saudi Arabia, she was not able to watch movies because there were no theaters.
“Being deprived [of entertainment], you are forced to be creative,” she said. “You have to keep your creativity alive.”
When Jacir moved to the United States as an adult, she developed interest in film, screenwriting and directing.
This interest formed the foundation for a fruitful film career.
Jacir is currently working on her second feature film, which is in post-production. She said she is still struggling to find funding for the project.
Jacir said she is also devoted to helping fellow Palestinian filmmakers tell their stories. She is the co-founder of the “Dreams of a Nation Palestinian Cinema Project,” which helps find funding for these filmmakers.
Staff writer Kathryn Muller spoke with Jacir about her films, her directing career and her views on the current state of Palestine.
DTH: Is it difficult being a businesswoman and filmmaker as a Palestinian woman?
Jacir: I think it’s true all over the world that being a female in the film industry poses a lot more challenges. I’m mostly a director and during “Salt of this Sea,” I had French producers. When we started, JBA Productions told me that it was going to take a while to finance a female director — and they were right. It took six years to fund the movie. I don’t know what the reasons are. With men, funding comes a lot quicker.
DTH: When you wrote “Salt of this Sea,” where did you draw your inspiration?
Jacir: There were two different real sparks. I met a refugee from Rafah, a 75-year-old man. His family had a bank account and I heard him talk about the account. All his family’s savings — gone. I also met women like Soraya’s character. They all knew so much about Palestine, almost obsessively, and they had never been there. I wanted a character like that.
DTH: Do you identify with your character, Soraya?
Jacir: Yes. And the male character. They are two different sides of same coin.
DTH: What was it like to write the screenplay for your movie and then have the opportunity to watch it come to life as the director?
Jacir: I entered into filmmaking wanting to be a writer. When I was writing “Salt of this Sea,” I wrote whatever I wanted. I didn’t think about logistics — none of that was in my mind at all.
I liked to work a lot on the script, too. I had to remain open to what was working and not working and what the actors brought to the film. Suheir Hammad [Soraya] was not a trained actress. She couldn’t do anything she didn’t believe. In the film, she is being really honest. If there was something in the script she didn’t understand, she couldn’t fake it.
DTH: How do you perceive the present state of Palestine?
Jacir: It’s an issue that is more complicated by media than it should be. It’s not a complicated issue. Everybody around the world wants to live their lives. They are really basic problems. I know I sound like a hippie but we really are one world. When I travel and screen the movie to other people around the world, it’s amazing how they can relate to it. There is something more basic that people can connect to.
DTH: Your talk is entitled “Practicing Cinema in a Palestinian Context.” What, exactly, does “practicing” cinema mean?
Jacir: Filmmaking is not easy. You really have to fight for your story. You better believe that it means something and believe that it has an audience, because there are easier things you can be doing.
DTH: In a past interview you said that independent filmmaking is about telling stories. Now that many of your films and documentaries have become very successful, do you think that you have achieved that goal?
Jacir: Not really. There are still so many more stories. So many more are still struggling. It’s not any easier and I’m working on my second feature. Yes, it is a rush to make your film and see your vision come to life. I think it’s important to stick together and support each other. We’re all struggling.
There will be a screening of “Salt of this Sea” in the Richard White Auditorium of Duke University tonight at 8 p.m. Following the screening, Jacir will be available for a question-and-answer session.