Ask the Filmmaker: 9 Star Hotel’s Ido Haar

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Israeli director Ido Haar grew up in a village on the edge of a pine forest halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. When he went home to visit his parents, he often saw men running frantically across the highway.
He says “the fear in their eyes haunted me, and I wanted to find out where they were running to and whom they were running from.”

In our interview with Haar, he tells us that he went into the forest and started talking with the men.

I discovered that the forest — my own backyard — serves as a hideout for thousands of Palestinians looking for work in Israel. I found a secret camp on the other side of the forest, but didn’t find any people. Whenever I came around, they would flee. My persistence made them curious, and eventually they stayed put. Since then, I have been documenting a vibrant community of young men and the impossibly hard and strangely vital lives they live. My camera follows two best friends. Muhammad is the charismatic leader, the one who always has the answers. Ahmad is the sole provider for his mother and seven siblings. I spent nights and days with them, experiencing, as much as an outsider can, a life of fear, uncertainty, madness and grace and trying to understand how they live despite their circumstances, which to me seem unlivable — in the open, in the dark, exploited, away from home and family — indeed, how they simply survive.

In the beginning, when I started trying to shoot the film, there was a lot of suspicion; the workers were sure that I was involved with the Israeli Army or the Israeli police. But after awhile, they understood that I’m interested in their story. Still, it took me months to find the two main characters in the film: Ahmad and Muhammad. There was something in their faces that caught me before I understood their stories. I felt as though the camera chose those two as my characters.

Read more from Haar’s interview, find out more about the making of 9 Star Hotel and learn about the challenges and the surprising benefits of filming characters who speak a language you don’t understand in Haar’s Production Journal.

Do you want to leave a comment for Ido Haar or ask him a question? Enter them here, and he will select a few and answer them the week of July 21, 2008.

  • Theresa

    FOREIGNID: 16759
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  • Robert Braun

    FOREIGNID: 16760
    Certainly the sympathy extended to the young Palestinian workers is touching. Now why don’t you look into the reasons why billions of dollars and euros have been squandered or stolen that were intended to help them create an economy for themselves? Why Palestinians in Gaza chose to burn down greenhouses donated by American Jews rather than use them to grow an economy? Why don’t you look into the victims of Palestinian terror to help explain their treatment in Israel? You could start with the July 3, 2008 victim, a 33 year old mother mother, Bat Sheva Unterman, 33, who managed to get her four year old son out of the bus just before she was crushed to death.

  • Carly

    FOREIGNID: 16761
    What can people in the U.S. do to help this situation?

  • Magalee

    FOREIGNID: 16762
    How did you find these people?