Visiting Ramallah in 2012 to put on Hamlet and run a workshop for young Palestinian actors, the German stage director Thomas Ostermeier returns to the Jenin refugee camp, where his friend, Juliano Mer-Khamis, was assassinated in the street in 2011. Mixing temporalities and different types of images, the film interleaves encounters with those close to this charismatic director of the Freedom Theatre and excerpts from a documentary that he had made himself. His Israeli mother had run theatre workshops for traumatised Palestinian children, some of whom later took up arms. As the film’s nodal point, the interview in prison with one of her former participants and ex-leader of the al-Aqsa brigades implicitly opposes violent resistance and artistic activism – the German theatre director holding firmly onto the hope that “ideas can also change things”. A symmetry emerges between the detainee and his friend Juliano Mer-Khamis, to whom he had given a building to house the Freedom Theatre. One is imprisoned, the other dead... The fate of the protagonists in this harrowing enquiry reinforces the convergence wrought by the editing between the recent murder and that in Shakespeare’s play. Did the dead man embody an aporia? A bitter question conveyed by the film’s musical and rhythmic frenzy. The Shakespeare parallel is pursued to the very end, as if in homage to this man of theatre: it is no coincidence that Hamlet has the final word, with Lars Eidiger in the role performing for a Palestinian audience moved from laughter to tears. (Charlotte Garson)
Production: Nicolas Klotz, Thomas Ostermeier
Print source: Nicolas Klotz
In collaboration with Élisabeth Perceval, Nicolas Klotz has directed many documentaries and fiction films – Paria (2000), The Wound (2004) – Low Life (2011) which have been screened at numerous international festivals and released theatrically. He also made videos and installations. The stage director Thomas Ostermeier is one of the major personalities of contemporary German theatre.