While it may seem impossible to separate politics from any story about the conflict between Israel and Palestine, the director of “200 Meters” Ameen Nayfeh explained why his drama needed to strip away the politics and focus more closely on the relatable, human conflict.
“200 Meters” stars Ali Suliman and is the story of a Palestinian father separated from his family on the other side of the wall in the West Bank, and though he’s just 200 meters away from them, he winds up traveling 200 kilometers in a desperate attempt to reach his son after an accident.
Nayfeh told TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman as part of the Awards and International Screening series that in earlier drafts of his screenplay, he had included a lot of political discussion, but he was advised over time to stick to the story of this father.
“I discovered that I don’t need to talk about the political situation. All I need to talk about is the journey,” Nayfeh said. “I was losing the elements that people already know. I was focusing more on the human story.”
Nayfeh said that the story for “200 Meters” came about because he “lived this separation,” being apart from his family on the Israeli side of the wall after it was initially built. And Nayfeh made a point to clarify that the completed wall in the West Bank is still a fairly recent memory and challenge for many families, as it was only built within the last two decades rather than 50 years ago.
“I’ve got bad memories. Because of this situation, it brought a lot of tragedy into my life growing up. And this is not only my story, it’s lots of families,” Nayfeh said.
Suliman’s character Mustafa faces the challenge of not having an Israeli ID, something that has become essential for those looking to travel past checkpoints and into cities. Suliman said that in his research for the role and as they were filming on location, he met so many people who said that the drama of “200 Meters” was their exact story that it felt almost like a documentary.
“This is something personal to him, and I’ve heard so many stories from real people who have been separated by the wall. Even while we were shooting, normal people were in the streets,” Suliman said. “‘This is my story.’ I heard that from many people who live like that.”
Interestingly though, a majority of the supporting cast of “200 Meters” are appearing for the first time on screen and are actually Palestinian, even those portraying Israeli border guards.
And to complicate the challenge of shooting this film further, Suliman in one moment of the film hid within the trunk of a car as his character attempts to smuggle himself to the other side of the wall, something that, with three people inside the trunk, including a camera man, made things really difficult to breathe. But the biggest challenge for Suliman remained the human one.
“The whole story was really a big challenge for me. It’s not something to take for granted to see a man separated from his family,” Suliman said. “This is the situation, and this is the story of this guy and this journey, just to live his life as normal like anywhere else in the world.”
“200 Meters” is Jordan’s official submission into the Best International Feature race for this year’s Oscars. Watch the full conversation with Suliman and Nayfeh above.