ITVS’s Annisa Kau sat down with filmmakers Ruthie Shatz and Adi Barash to discuss their documentary The Collaborator and His Family. The film, which follows a Palestinian family as it is torn apart by its patriarch’s collaboration with Israel, will air this Sunday, August 5 on Global Voices on the WORLD Channel (check local listings).
Can you tell us about your background and what led you to Ibrahim’s family and this project?
Since we began our documentary careers, our main focus has dealt with human rights and people’s pursuit of liberty.
One of the key elements of Israel’s security defense system is the use of collaborators, or informants, so we had been aware of the subject. While filming our 2004 film GARDEN, we came across many collaborators and their families on the dark streets of southern Tel Aviv, where junkies and prostitutes lived.
We realized that many collaborators face the same living conditions and treatment as those in the most vulnerable positions in our society. We met some of these remarkable people who gave their lives to a cause that they believed in, saving many Israelis, but are now treated with disrespect, and utter disregard for their safety and well being. We researched the subject and encountered many collaborators, eventually meeting our main character, Ibrahim.
Can you tell us more about Ibrahim’s situation and circumstances that led him to become a collaborator?
Ibrahim was born into a family of collaborators. His Father was a collaborator as well as his brothers and uncles.
To him it was a way of living, the only option. While Ibrahim was growing up, Israel was in control of the West Bank, and his family worked towards securing Israel. Once Arafat had returned to Palestine, the rules of the game had changed and he and his entire family were at risk.
The film really captures the family’s adjustment to their new home in Tel Aviv and their struggles to gain identification permits from the Israeli Security Service. How long did you follow the family in order to capture their story and how intimate did the production become with the family?
We followed the family for two and a half years. During that time we became very close, almost becoming part of the family in many ways. We celebrated birthdays with them, watched the children grow up, and to this day, we remain in close contact with them.
What are the impacts the family will face once this film is released? Also what political impacts will this film have in helping other collaborators who are in a similar situation?
Hopefully people will reach out to the family and the film will eventually help them with the legal process they are now engaged in. As with anything, it’s very hard to predict what will happen in the long term.
How is the family doing now? Can you give us an update?
The family is in the midst of a legal battle. Ibrahim has received his permits and visa, and now he fights for the rights of his wife and children. They still live in poor conditions, though the girls are doing extremely well at school. We are in touch with them, helping with financing their legal costs.
What do you hope viewers take away after watching?
We believe and have faith in the indomitable human spirit. We hope our viewers will come to know this family as neighbors, taking their plight to heart.
Please share one piece of filmmaking advice you can share with our readers from the lessons you have learned while making this film.
Every time we have embarked on a film, our most important goal is to leave all judgment aside – to enter our characters lives with no preconceived notions and record their journey with empathy and respect.
The Collaborator and His Family will premiere as part of the Global Voices series on the WORLD Channel, Sunday, August 5 at 10 p.m. (check local listings). Starting August 6, the documentary will be available to view in entirety online via PBS Video (for a limited time only).