interview with the director / texts about the film
Interview with Tawfik Abu Wael - April 2002
Diary of a Male Whore is a very complex work dealing with various levels of violence. It is touching many taboos, yet it is very poetic. How did the making of this film come about?
I shot this film in October 1998, after I finished my second year in Tel Aviv university. As a student, I had to make a short fiction after the second year. My first script "we are ok", was denied by Tel Aviv University because it was “too long", a 20 min length film. I decided to write another script, so I wrote "Diary of a Male Whore". I liked the book "For Bread Alone" and thought to make a film based on the book which has a lot of various levels of violence but still so poetic. I took a lot of things from the book but not the plot!. At last I know that my feeling to be a "whore" filmmaker, who wants to satisfy the people who support or approve the film, brought me to make this film. Also this script, "Diary of a male Whore" was denied by the university because "it is a low film, racist and under all levels" as they claimed at Tel Aviv University. In the end I made this film by my self, from my pocket with no relation to the university. This the reason it took me three years 1998-2001 to finish it.
Can you say more about the Mohammad Shukry’s novel For Bread Alone and why you decided to adopt it?
MOHAMMAD SHUKRY grew up in Tangeer under the occupation of Spain. He had a very tough, violent life and also was very poor. He succeeded to learn writing and reading only when he was 20 years old. Seven years later he wrote his biography: "For Bread Alone" in which he is describing his life in a very spontanic and authentic way, using a lot of hard expressions that seem as if life is more strong and amazing than our imagination. The biography describes Shukry's childhood and adolescents, how he discovers life and sex which became also making a living for him. I adopted part of the biography, didn't take the plot, but I was totally impressed by this biography because of the connections to my reality and my growing in a village and my moving to the city Tel Aviv.
Is that why you situated the story in Tel Aviv?
As I said, the biography of Shukry is a process of creating "some thing", from the tragedy, hunger, depression and the darkness. So that, the way of putting the "disgusting" into an aesthetic and poetic frame, is what attracted me in Shukry.
The light plays an important role in the film: images of the present are very dark whereas images of the protagonist's childhood are very bright, nearly loud.
Still the way you use the light does not seem to represent bad and good, you show different forms of violence the male whore experienced in the past.
I like your observations about the light in the film. You are right.
Was the film shown in Palestine?
It was shown in Israel, at the International Film Festival in Jerusalem. There are almost no places to screen films to Palestinians. However, there is no choice to screen this film for common Palestinians or Arabs.
How did people react?
People were impressed by the film. Israelis usually said that it was very hard for them, this film. Arabs where angry about it, because of some taboo issues. However, a lot of people really like the film, Israelis, Arabs, Afghans, Chinese...
In which other places was the film presented?
Qatar, London, Cologne, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Paris, Belgium, Sweden...
(Interview with Irit Neidhardt, April 2002)
Review: Diary of a Male Whore - by Maureen Clare Murphy for The Electronic Intifada, 21 April 2003
In Tawfiq Abu Wael’s Diary of a Male Whore, the main character, a young man who states, “My physical pleasures make me forget the hunger,” finds that humiliation is the way of life in an occupied land.
Abu Wael makes this humiliation and repression more memorable by not relying on predictable footage of Palestinians living in poverty and Israeli soldiers peering out of tanks. Instead, he uses the main character’s sexuality as a base for helping the audience understand his plight.
Indeed, the themes of dominance, humiliation, and vulnerability are established in the opening line, “The chicken and the goat were my first females.” The young man also witnesses the establishment of power and control as he watches sheep mating, a scene that Abu Wael depicts quite viscerally, and takes place “two days before the Jews conquered us.”
The main character’s interaction with an Israeli man also carries on the metaphor of sexual dominance as political power. A well-dressed man in a black car who “speaks Hebrew” pays the young man to masturbate as he watches on.
Life at home is no sanctuary either. “My father is a monster,” he says, and he observes his parents having sexual intercourse, describing it as “flesh colliding with flesh.”
The audience might think that things take a turn for the better when the narrator introduces Asya, “the most beautiful girl in the village.” Viewers are put in the young man’s shoes as they voyeuristically gaze at Asya as she bathes in what she thinks is privacy. However, gunshots disrupt the scene and once again sex becomes synonymous with violence.
And so the young man returns to the dark — the dark car of the Israeli man, the dark of home where an Israeli soldier rapes his mother as he sits silently and watches, and finally to the dark of the street where the viewer leaves him to his own devices, not feeling especially confident that he will find his way out of a seemingly black hole.
source: The Electronic Intifada
Tora Bora cinema and independent media from Palestine – by Sobhi al-Zobaidi FOR Jump Cut No 50, spring 2008.
[...] In Diary of a Male Whore it is the body that remains, only the body and its forces trapped within itself, fluctuating in the form of sexual perversions. This amounts to zero memory, the loss of it completely. This is the body as a sexual maze fluctuating in a sexual maze. A Tora Bora made of flesh, of smells and touches that turn the body mobile only in the way of reliving, replaying, reenacting the same memory over and over again, the memory of the mother being raped by an Israeli soldier. It is with this memory that Abu Wael registers the 1948 Jewish occupation of Palestine. This memory, this crystallized virtual, mirrors all other acts of becoming; it replaces and displaces the actual.
A time image, a crystalline moment, a collapse in coherence occurs. There is no sense in the space that surrounds the main character; the only sense is through his body which moves him, carries him from one place to another without having to have any of the coherence that’s usually endowed in one’s practices of space such as one’s home, office, homeland: “I roam aimlessly all night, during the day I sleep at any street corner,”as the frame below reads. The film begins and ends with the main character inside the car of an Israeli elder, who is old enough to be from the time of the mother's rape, i.e. 1948. The Palestinian man performs a sex act, masturbating, only for the perverted pleasures of the old Israeli man. This is where his body takes him to places of the primal scene, the first displacement, as an ever-occurring thing; it is all whatever happens, all whatever is. It's a loss of "hodoglical space" where ones goes aimless, mad, demonic, anything but normal.
The main character in Diary of a Male Whore and the father in Be Quiet are two people with no memory. There is a vacuum there, some kind of collapse, a disorientation that forces them to go only where their bodies can take them. This ambiguity in their sense of identity as it relates to space and memory can be related to the fact that from 1948 until 1967, Israeli Palestinians had no contact whatsoever with Palestinians or Arabs anywhere. Only after 1967 when Israel occupied the rest of Palestine did they start to contact other Palestinians. So on the one hand they were not allowed to identify with Arabs and Palestinians and on the other they have not been allowed to become equal Israelis because they are not Jewish, and they still live this dilemma. [...], complete article
Further reading in acedemic reference books
Diary of a Male Whore – hustling and the unending occupation. In: Raya Morag: Queering Terror: Trauma, Race, and Nationalism in Palestinian and Israeli Gay Cinema during the Second Intifada. In Yosef Raz and Boaz Hagin: Deeper that Oblivion: Trauma and Memory in the Israeli Cinema. London/New York 2013
Dabashi, Hamid (2012): Corpus Anarchicum. Political Protest, Suicidal Violence, and the Making of the Posthuman Body, New York.