Queer filmmaker Jen Heck on forming a cross-cultural music group in “The Promised Band”

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What happens when a well-intentioned American TV producer wants her Israeli and Palestinian friends to bond? A half-assed music group and a documentary called The Promised Band. And made by and starring several queer women, the film has a queer and feminist bent to it. 

We caught up with out director and cast member Jen Heck and star Lina Qadri, shortly after the film’s premiere at the Cinequest Film Festival. We talked about the risks involved in making the movie, the realities it revealed, what makes it part of “New New Queer Cinema” and more.

promised_band_singing_w_logo copy 2photos courtesy The Promised Band

AfterEllen.com: Lina, at several points during the film you mention that safety is a concern for you. Knowing that, why did you agree to partake at all?

Lina Qadri: I agreed to do the film because I think it’s a good way to bring this subject, the conflict–the Israeli-Palestinian conflict–another perspective that people haven’t seen before. I think risk is everywhere. It’s not only in the Palestinian conflict. So I really didn’t mind just to take the risk and just to have this experience and to build a bridge and to make other people just see the context of another perspective: a human bridge between friends.

 

AE: When you say “another perspective,” what do you mean by that?

LQ: It’s not common to have a good relationship between Palestinians and Israelis, especially the Palestinians who live in the West Bank. Because we don’t really see the Israelis as civilians, we just see them as torture. So having to deal with the Israelis as civilians and as women and men, it was a really different perspective.

Jen Heck: The reality is friendships like this are totally criminalized, by default, because of the way the borders work. And we started to feel at a certain point, and one of the characters says this in the movie, that people are intentionally kept apart. So it’s always about the monster in the room because you’re not ever seeing anybody face to face. I think when you actually see people face to face, you really recognize aspects of yourself in that person. Which is terrifying and actually threatening to a lot of people and to ourselves, but at the same time it’s totally life changing. That mythology of hatred kind of goes away.

 

AE: Lina, how aware were you of Jen’s intentions for the film?

LQ: Jen believed that she could do something different. We talked hours and hours continuously, and we had good conversations, and I felt Jen was coming with a different message. I think she believed that there is something different and that there should be another way to do this kind of, “I need to represent the image in a better way.” Because most of the time we only see the conflict.

So I think that Jen believed that there is a story that should be told. She saw the situation; she came there, she experienced the lies on both sides. She was really convinced that there was something happening that people are not aware of.

JH: A lot of what the movie does is about showing this, telling this story through the lens of our characters, who are women, many of whom are queer, and their goal here is to make a song together. Nobody is walking into this movie trying to convince the other person to take on a specific ideology or forcing anything on them. It comes up, naturally, but it comes up in a very human way.

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