CNN LIVE SUNDAY
Interview With Eitan Gorlin
Aired August 17, 2003 - 16:22 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: "The Holy Land," an Israeli feature film, has critics and audiences talking. It's a coming of age story based on a real Jerusalem bar frequented by Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Here's a glimpse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE If it's easier, you can speak English. My mother's American.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't condescend to me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Herby, pay attention to the road. The black hole is coming up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jews.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Around here they call me the exterminator.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Ooh, we're going to talk a little bit more about what that all means, the exterminator. We're joined now from Los Angeles. The film's writer and director, Eitan Gorlin. Eitan, good to see you.
EITAN GORLIN, WRITER, DIRECTOR: Thanks for having me.
WHITFIELD: Well, before we talk about the explanation of that character, the exterminator, let's talk about what this film is really about. It is kind of a love story slash drama, and it really is dealing with some very serious issues. What's the goal -- your intended goal in this film?
GORLIN: Well, I mean, first and foremost it's a coming of age story. It's also a love story. I see it more as kind of being something of a spiritual human journey. But it takes place in a context that's not in a vacuum, so you have the Arab-Israeli conflict in the background. But it's a coming of age story, and it's a love story, and I hope there's something in it for everybody.
WHITFIELD: Now, it's a love story in which to help perhaps be a bit prophetic in trying to see how Israelis and Jews -- Israelis and Palestinians might be able to, you know, live together there in some sort of harmony?
GORLIN: Well, I think the Mike's Place Bar serves as something of a hope. And it's based on a real bar that I worked at that was founded by a Canadian war photographer in 1992, and it was a bar where at 6:00 in the morning you would look around the room and you would say, you know, what are all these people doing in the same room? So I think that's sort of the hope. The hope is the Mike's Place Bar. But there's also a lot that happens on the periphery, which is less hopeful.
WHITFIELD: So let's talk about some of these characters, people that you actually know or have had, you know, some brush of experiences with at this bar. We saw the exterminator. What's the exterminator's character all about, and is that depicting -- depicted by some real-life character?
GORLIN: Well, I mean, each of these characters represents his or herself. They each have an ethnicity, they each have a context, but first and foremost they each represent themselves. I spent a lot of time, I spent a year studying in a very Zionist settler yeshiva in Israel and I had an opportunity to come into contact with a lot of these characters and to really get to know the ideology from very up close.
I think today, most settlers are economic settlers, which means that rent in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv is just so high you get more space for less money if you live in a settlement. But at the core of this movement are people that are very fanatic and very extreme and believe very strongly in an ideology which believes that they're on the cusp of history, and it's more important than life itself and nothing is going to stop them from sort of ushering in the next stage, which is the messianic era.
The exterminator himself was based on -- I really was hitchhiking in 1990 -- I think it was '90-'91 from Jerusalem to Hebron with a friend and there was someone who called himself the exterminator who picked us up and the front seat he needed for his M-16 and he never passed 15 kilometers on the speedometer, and every time something happened on the side of the road he would stop. He was like the John Wayne of the West Bank.
WHITFIELD: How much of this movie spends time on trying to underscore life as it is now, life as you or others hope it could be or what its potential could be just really might be realistically?
GORLIN: I like to emphasize, because at the forefront it's a love story, it's about the characters. I think there are a lot of universal themes that we play with in the movie about -- or there are certain lines that if you cross there's no coming back from? It's a little bit based on the prodigal son story. So it's -- you know, it's not -- it's not propaganda and it's not trying to shove any one specific point of view across. Hopefully, what it does is it will just provoke thought. So I don't -- you know, I don't see the film having a specific message.
WHITFIELD: And it seems to be provoking thought and already winning critical acclaim from people on all sides, you know, of the issue of what's taking place in the Middle East. How are you receiving that? Is that exactly what you were hoping for? Were you hoping just to kind of get people thinking?
GORLIN: Well, I'm -- I've actually been very pleasantly surprised and often moved by audience reaction. We've had young orthodox people who have really been moved because I think rarely do they really see their own culture kind of depicted. I mean, all kind of depends on their point of view.
One person might say, Oh, my god, you're airing our dirty laundry. What are people going to say about us. But on the flip side, these are communities and cultures that aren't often depicted on screen. I think sometimes sensitively, sometimes -- you know, I kind of see all the characters in the film as being something of victims. And if I have a message it's -- you know, instead of all the victims turning on each other, recognizing that everybody, regardless of what side you're on, you're kind of in this together.
WHITFIELD: All right. Eitan Gorlin, writer and director of "The Holy Land." Thanks for being with us and thanks for sharing parts of the movie with us as well.
GORLIN: Oh, thank you for having me.
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