director's note / from the press / poem Tawfik Zayyad / texts about the film
What inspired like twenty impossibles is the continued fragmentation of us as Palestinians - how through the imposition of endless checkpoints and military barriers throughout our own land we have been separated from each other and also criminalized for the mere act of attempting freedom of movement - the right to travel from one place to another. Aside from the creation of arbitrary borders, this fragmentation has also been imposed through the identity cards that Palestinians carry. These ID cards further separate Palestinians from each other by labeling them as a 'West Banker', 'Jerusalemite', 'Israeli citizen' or 'American citizen', 'Gazan', rather than allowing us our collective identity as Palestinians. I was also interested in exploring that fact that these various 'labels' also give each individual different rights and privileges depending on what their ID is. In like twenty impossibles, a group of Palestinian filmmakers begin their journey by making a film together and working as any ordinary film crew would - with a director, an actor, cinematographer, soundperson, etc. By the end of the film, because of these realities, a totally different situation exists.
I wanted to explore the reality of life under Israeli occupation and at the same time to question what it means to be an artist and filmmaker under these harsh realities where filmmaking is a privilege and where simple movement is a privilege. The fact that it's a film about a film is not only meant to critique the filmmaking process itself but also to show how memory and nostalgia (of the character of ﾓAnne-Marieﾔ) play a part in all this. I also wanted to comment on, or rather poke fun, at the tendency of filmmakers to appear in their own films, and somehow becoming the heroes of their own story.
In addition to exploring what it means to be an artist from an occupied country, I also wanted to ask questions about the very act of filmmaking itself. It seemed quite natural that just as the elements of film cannot work when separated from each other (sound, picture, the actor etc), so does the breakdown of communication and of unity amongst the crew of Palestinians themselves once they are separated from each other.
By the end of the film, the entire thing falls apart; with sound separated from image, the actor arrested, and the director leaving. I found that cinema was a perfect metaphor for what is happening in Palestine today and has been happening for the last 57 years. By the end of the film, because all the elements are town from each other - there is no film. There cannot be a film.
In the story, the film crew's first hints of their disunion come when they hit the first checkpoint. As the film continues, there is a complete breakdown of communication. ‚Anne-Marie’ as director is no longer able to communicate with her crew, or with her actor. She then takes decisions on her own and her way of resistance is to ‚continue’ despite the soldiers - however she does not necessarily do what is the best for the rest of the crew, nor is she necessarily aware of her different position vis-à-vis the Israeli soldiers.
Rami, for example, is in a different situation than all the others due to the fact of his West Bank ID. At Kalandia, when it is closed, the crew all agree to take a side road --- all except him. He does not say a word at that moment and, for the first time in the film; a decision has been made without the communication between all. And why is he quiet? He has the most to lose if they are caught - after all, Anne-Marie has her American passport, Mohammed has his Israeli passport, and the driver has a Jerusalem ID. Yet he is finally doing what he loves - acting - and he doesnﾒt want to spoil this moment. He says, 'I'll be in front of the camera and do something I love'. This is what he wants (though not what he gets).
This film is about the politics of filmmaking itself - the role of the director, her naivety in 'playing herself', becoming the hero and because of her 'vision', leading this crew of people into a place where she has no control and when things get bad, she may not necessarily be the one to pay the price for that.
This film is entirely fiction. It is totally scripted and acted from beginning to end. However I am not concerned with what is fiction and what is documentary. I am only concerned with what is true, or rather what is true to me. I cannot stage a checkpoint like the one that exists at Kalandia - what happens there is much worse in real life and I have found that any film that tries to portray this reality ultimately fails.
The one small part of the film that is 'documentary' in a traditional sense - is the montage inserted into the film near the beginning - at Kalandia. It grounds everything for me. It interrupts the flow of the narrative, of everything fictive about the film, and suggests the reality of the checkpoints. Narratively and technically, it's too long. Narratively and technically it makes no sense, and it shouldn't be there. Which is exactly how I feel about those checkpoints.
For the past 30 years, since the first time I crossed the border into Palestine, the humiliation and violence of crossing has only increased. Thirty years of strip searches, interrogations and being made to feel like a criminal just for being born into a certain group has affected me. There is no necessary violence in standing naked with ones family as a child at a border crossing for hours - but the pain and humiliation of that has deeply affected me and continues to as an adult. This is exactly the kind of mundane, every day violence I wanted to explore in the film: violence in a less-traditional sense.
As I was writing the script (in 2001), there were regular Israeli invasions into Ramallah and Bethlehem (the two cities I moved between). These attacks came in many forms but one of these ways was from the sky through shelling via F-16s. When the attacks would start, I would hide on the bathroom floor or in whatever room had the least amount of windows and wait for it to end --- and this kind of violence is so obviously unacceptable. Who can defend military attacks on entire civilian populations as happens in Palestinians cities, in Gaza, in Nablus, Jenin, etc? It's a question I am not in the least bit interested in. However what I am interested in exploring is another kind of violence, the mundane violence of military occupation and the 'nothingness' that happens. That is where the film came from. (Annemarie Jacir)
From the Press
Like twenty impossibles is grippingly suspenseful while also satirizing the power imbalances inherent in political filmmaking. (Filmmaker)
Succint and powerful (Film Comment)
Blurs the line between truth and fiction to tell a story of art bowed but not defeated by the routine violence of Israeli occupation. (San Francicso Bay Guardian)
Like the politics it discusses, it is resolutely, and brilliantly, inconclusive. (Time Out)
Compared in some quarters to Pontecorvo's also pseudo-documentary The Battle of Algiers, this is obviously more compact and yet, in its necessary absence of character development and visual brutality, equally devasting in condemnation. (Bue Jai Arts)
A Palestinian film crew attempting to pass a military checkpoint into Jerusalem encounters firsthand the insidious nature of oppression in the lyrical and unnerving faux Like Twenty Impossi bles by Annem arie Jacir documentary like twenty impossibles. (Nashville News)
In Jacir's Kiarostamian like twenty impossibles, we are left with unnerving silence. (The Village Voice)
It is a thousand times easier for you
To pass an elephant through the needle's eye.
To catch fried fish in the Milky Way...
A thousand times easier
Than smoldering with your oppression
The spark of an idea.
Like twenty impossibles
We shall remain.
-Tawfiq Zayyad, 1965
Texts about the film
Tawil Souri, Helga (2006): Book Review of Like Twenty Impossibles (Annemarie Jacir, Dir.). Visual Anthropology Review 21 1 (pp. 279-282)
Ball, Anna (2012): Palestinian Literature and Film in Postcolonial Feminist Perspective, p. 122 ff
Tora Bora cinema and independent media from Palestine – by Sobhi al-Zobaidi for Jump Cut No 50, spring 2008.
[…] In Like Twenty Impossibles (2003), Annemarie Jacir, an American-Palestinian woman comes to Palestine to make a film. With her are three men, a sound person, driver and an actor, Rami. On their way to Jerusalem from Ramallah, they find that Kalandia checkpoint is closed (this part of the film is filmed at the actual checkpoint), so they take one of the "Tora Bora" routes, and this becomes the location of the film. As their Ford makes its way through the Tora Bora, the filmmaker and Rami talk about the first time they saw each other four years ago, and his pleasure to be acting in her film now:
“When you came back this time I was so happy, and now that you are making a film and I am in the film. I feel that you are helping me to be in front of the camera doing something I like. It is important to me, I love to act.”
He goes silent for seconds then continues:
“But why did you chose me to act with you?”
Jacir responds, laughing:
“Because you are good looking.”
"But until today you didn’t ask me to do anything. You didn’t ask me to act.”
Suddenly the crew comes face to face with the force of the Israeli army (now at a staged checkpoint). The trip is aborted, movement is arrested, and unlike Nabil’s private Tora Bora, this real and physical one turns out lethal. At this staged checkpoint with Palestinian actors playing Israeli soldiers, the soundman in the film is arrested and so the film crew retreats from Tora Bora, without sound. The last few minutes of the film are not silent but deaf and mute. This is how it feels when one experiences a collapse, loses orientation; one sheds one’s senses as one flees. […] full article