All you need to do is care about someone else's suffering: Pranav Reddy on Palestine-set 'Occupied'

Filmed in Palestine between 2016 and 2017, the 121-minute English documentary explores the cost of war through intimate interviews of five artists who are a testament to human resistance.
Last Updated : 30 May 2024, 10:00 IST
Last Updated : 30 May 2024, 10:00 IST

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New Delhi: Being nice to people irrespective of where they come from and what they can offer goes a long way, says Pranav Pingle Reddy, who decided to document the daily life of Palestinians in his documentary "Occupied".

Filmed in Palestine between 2016 and 2017, the 121-minute English documentary explores the cost of war through intimate interviews of five artists who are a testament to human resistance.

Unlike a feature film with a ready script, Reddy, who finds it tragic that his documentary is relevant today given the situation in Gaza, said the entire story of "Occupied" was shot in 35 days.

"Everything was based on a conversation... I just wanted to know a little bit more about their life. The reason the film is where it is, is because all you need to do is care a little bit about someone else's suffering. If you're able to do that, that sort of basically sensitises you as a human being," Reddy told PTI in an interview.

"The reason why the artists connected with the team and myself was because we cared a little bit. That's all we did," the Hyderabad-based director said about the documentary, currently streaming on MUBI India.

The situation on ground has got worse since Reddy shot the documentary.

On October 7, 2023, Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip attacked Israel through land, sea and air routes killing at least 1,200 Israelis and taking hostage another 230. Media reports suggested 30 of them are still held hostage.

The attack prompted Israel to launch an all-out attack on the Gaza Strip, a self-governing Palestinian territory next to Egypt and Israel, and killed thousands of Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children.

On Sunday, Israel carried out an airstrike on a camp in the southern Gaza city of Rafah which killed at least 45 people.

Reddy said he would have never thought 'Occupied' would be relevant today.

"To see what's happening right now, the film is more relevant than ever. It's just that it's been happening so much in the West Bank... I'm happy that the world is going to see the film but I'm not happy with what the situation is."

Reddy's"Occupied" follows calligraphy artist Hamza Aby Ayyash, poet Nabil Barham, Sa'aleek rapper group, handicraft artists and brothers Ala and Baha, and ballet dancer Rand Ziad as they create art in the time of war.

The whole film came to life when Reddy met Shadi Zaqtan, a musician based out of Palestinian city Ramallah, at an airport in Vietnam when he was flying out for a friend's wedding.

Reddy, who is in his early 30s, and Zaqtan soon exchanged numbers through Facebook and the musician invited the filmmaker to stay at his home. Months later, he decided to take a leap of faith and used all the money he and his team had made by shooting an advertisement to head to Palestine.

"I sent one message to this guy telling him that we wanted to come there and he said, "Yeah, Habibi, come stay with me". I thought this guy's just taking it really lightly. Which guy at an airport you will meet who's going to say okay to staying 30 days with him and come film? But, that's exactly what happened."

Reddy and his crew landed in Tel Aviv with the visa for 35-40 days for Palestine via Israel. They told the Israeli authorities they were landscape photographers and later shot "Occupied" in Palestinian cities Qalandia, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Hebron, Haifa, and the Dead Sea.

Most of the drone shots they filmed could have sent the team to a minimum five to 10 years in jail.

"We had to time it in such a way that every time a patrol vehicle would pass by, the guy who was with us would say 'Pranav, the patrol vehicle had passed. You can fly the drone for 30 seconds to three minutes, and then you fly it back".

Reddy credits Zaqtan, who runs a bar in Ramallah, for finding out five different artists in Palestine.

"Since the kind of stories that we were exposed to through the media about the pain and suffering of death, we wanted to showcase how there are also other kinds of people who are living in this entire occupation,' he said, adding "Occupied" was a self-financed project that took six years to complete," he said.

"The Palestinian people are by far the most kind, giving, caring and the most amazing people that I've ever come across. They were extremely supportive. There less is more. It was truly heart wrenching to see what was happening," Reddy added.

Published 30 May 2024, 10:00 IST

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