The Past Is Present for The Oslo Diaries Filmmakers
By Diana Landes
In their film, directors Mor Loushy and Daniel Sivan shed light on the secret meetings that took place between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in the early ‘90s. The filmmakers discuss what was at stake for both sides, why they used negotiators’ diaries to tell the story and how the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat can help inspire peace talks today.
HBO: What drove you to tell this story now?
Mor Loushy: We both feel it’s not a film about history [because] it’s still our reality. It’s our present and, most importantly, it’s our future. Everything connects because we haven’t finished the conflict. The peace process has been frozen for years now.
HBO: Why did you decide to use the negotiators’ diaries to narrate the film?
Daniel Sivan: The challenge was to take this tedious, rigid negotiation and make it something dramatic and cinematic. Then we discovered the diary of the professor Ron Pundak; it was so passionate. We read it and saw this film in front of our eyes.
At first these diaries contradict each other on both sides. Slowly as the diaries come along, the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators realize they are fighting the same fight. They find that it’s them against the world, because all of the people at home are not supporting them.
That’s the brilliance of the diaries. They let us see the negotiation not from the outside, not as historic fact, but as a dramatic, passionate journey, and character-driven film.
HBO: How did you approach visually depicting the negotiations?
Mor Loushy: The negotiating room itself was so secret that no one filmed anything except the signing, but it was important for us that the viewer really feel the negotiations.
Daniel Sivan: We didn’t want classic cinematic recreations. We decided to play between these real archives and fake archives, in order not to detach you from the experience. We were going for something as authentic and truthful as possible and loyal to the very intimate diaries.
HBO: What was the experience of filming the recreations like?
Daniel Sivan: We found lookalikes in both Israel and Palestine. The actors didn’t know each other and had very different political opinions. Slowly through the week of filming the recreations they became friends. They started to see each other as humans. That’s the essence of the film, if you take people and really get to know them, from there you can start the peace process. It’s about knowing your enemy and discovering their humanity.
HBO: Can you describe what was at stake for the negotiators?
Daniel Sivan: Throughout the ‘90s the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] was considered a terrorist group; for the Israelis they were the ultimate monsters. On the other side, talking to the Israeli entity was something no Palestinian was proud of. It was negotiating with your occupier, your enemy.
The negotiators took this high risk not only on an academic and political level, they risked ending up in jail. If the talks had been leaked the Rabin administration would have collapsed within one day, even hours.
HBO: Some of the negotiators started out as enemies and became lifelong friends.
Mor Loushy: Uri Savir and Abu Ala, two of our main characters, are still close friends. It gives you the idea that we can work it out, there are people on both sides who want dialogue. There is no alternative. This film is a call for action and a return to the discourse of peace.
HBO: What could the current leaders of Israel and Palestine take from the film?
Daniel Sivan: Our leaders shouldn’t be leading through opinion polls and ratings. Our leaders should look to the future. This is a cry for help. I’m looking at Netanyahu and Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas]. I wish that they would say “I am taking the unpopular vote and going forward with a peace agreement.”
Yitzhak Rabin was doing just fine politically. He took great personal danger to engage in the talks. He lost his own life, for the path he took.
I wish our leaders would take some chances. For the past 25 years we’re in endless stagnation on both sides. We just want to move forward; we’ve had enough.
The Oslo Diaries is now available to stream.