Personal Statement

Having lived in New York for almost 5 years now, I knew that I wanted to make my film about my experience of being someone of Middle Eastern origin living in New York post 9/11. Staying in New York after the ‘War on Terror’ was declared was something I chose to do. I had always wanted to do the MFA on the Graduate Film Programme at New York University, Tisch School of the Arts, and having already completed the first year of my MFA I felt that I should stay despite the change in the environment. I knew that the combination of the intense MFA course and staying on in New York when many of my Arab friends had left, would force latent issues to come to the fore . I knew that I would be made to address issues more directly as I faced them head on.

As a woman, an Arab and a European I feel that I come from an under explored place. My life so far, by the nature of my cultural heritage, having a Bosnian Palestinian mother and Jordanian father who were based in Beirut until the war in 1976, has been a bizarre mix of security and privilege, growing up in London, and on the opposite side, with war and turmoil. The assimilation of these diametrically opposed worlds, is what I naturally draw upon in my work.

It is for these reasons that I wanted to make a thesis film that would explore my experiences in New York. Naturally this film is an exaggerated version of my daily fears but, nonetheless these fears could easily become a reality if one is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I made a conscious effort not to make a surveillance/espionage film as that is not what I wanted to deal with. I wanted to show how daily life merges with the absurd when one finds oneself in this situation, that my characters were just getting on with life trying to deal with the dogs, being followed and that is just got too much. I didn’t want to make an angry film. I wanted to show how the external affects people and relationships. This is something I tried to express in the film.

I feel that it is important that my voice is heard, especially at this delicate moment in time. I am someone who defies the current popular conception that there is a divide between East and West as I am a synthesis of the two, something that many people would like to deny exists. I know that my work communicates this synthesis and am hoping that this film and future films that I make will help change people’s perceptions.

Zeina Durra
Writer / Director