Director Mili Pecherer on her film „It wasn’t the right mountain, Mohammad“ and the short form / interview

Born in Israel in 1988, Mili Pecherer one day left her homeland and has been on the road with her camera, recording her encounters with people and animals ever since. Her travels have so far taken her to Finland, Russia, Spain and France. She has been supported by a number of institutions including the Bezalel Academy, VGIK, Lahti University of Applied Sciences, BilbaoArte and Le Fresnoy. She currently lives in Marseilles.

What was your starting point for It wasn’t the right mountain, Mohammad?

The story of It Wasn’t the Right Mountain, Mohammad was born out of two significant events, one is ancient and the other is recent. The ancient one happened approximately 3,800 years ago when God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, which was probably the biggest leaps of faith anyone has ever known. I, however, found the catharsis quite puzzling: Just as Abraham was about to sacrifice his son on the mount of Moriah, he was interrupted by the angel of the Lord, and saw a “ram caught in a thicket by his horns”. Abraham sacrificed the ram instead of his son. “happy end”.

Reading the story again in my adulthood made me wonder – who was this ram? How did he get caught up in that situation? Or, as Paul Celan asked in his poem “Great, Glowing Vault” :
“Into what does he not charge? ”And then he added: “The world is gone, I must carry you.”
I wanted to tell the story of the last day in the life of that ram, but was also afraid of the responsibility that came along. Entering such a great mythology is quite scary. Therefore I decided that the only way to be loyal to a certain truth, without imposing it on anybody, would be to imagine what could have happened to me back then, when God tested everyone’s faith on the mount of Moriah.

The second recent event from which my film was inspired, occurred while my parents went for their morning jogging on a beach in Israel. They came across a plastic water bottle with a rolled letter inside. They opened it carefully the letter, written in Arabic, signed by a man named ‘Mohammad son of Sabah’, and addressed to God.

The faith and absurdity represented by this little event moved me deeply. I decided to start my journey at sea, and see how it goes from there. I will be the bottle, containing a letter back to Mohammad, and who knows who will find it? Could be God, but could also be a ridiculous hazard. Maybe both.

Do you have a favourite moment in the film? Which one and why this one?

I think that my favorite moment in the film is the scene with the avalanche. It was the first time I knew that the music will work with the image. Which means a moment when I had faith that the film could actually be born. The music was the first element that was created for the film, before the script, the technique, the landscapes, everything. It all started because I wasn’t sure I will be able to get the copyrights for a song I wanted, so we tried to improvise something that could replace it.
Then, months later, while working the animation of this scene, during a moment of great crisis, I decided to listen to the music, to see if there could be any clue in that. And it worked perfectly together! It felt so good, because I felt that I was in the right direction, as if the spirit of the film was kept throughout all the different stages, even though I didn’t know until the very end what was going to be this film. And when an image and a music work good together, it creates a catharsis. I mean, at least for the troubled director in the editing room. From that moment on, I used the music to guide me during the rest of the creation.

What do you like about the short form?

I have to admit that I don’t have a particular feeling towards the short form. I just like good films, the length is elusive anyway and time is relative, right?
Regarding my own films, so far, I never succeeded in determining the length ahead. I believe with whole my heart that the film decides its form and length. Films are spirits that are wondering our worlds, looking for a body that will help them to take a form. The mission of filmmakers, the bodies, is to let go and follow it. It’s just so hard to let go of the control and follow.

But I do like the idea that in a film festival program you can experience multiple films for the same price of one film, and enjoy constructing the puzzle of different universes that wouldn’t have meet otherwise.

 

photo ©Dorothea Tuch

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