Reuters interview: Palestinian director Mai Masri on her latest film 3000 Nights

Ahram Online , Wednesday 8 Jun 2016

The award winning film screened across the world and opened the Luxor Arab and European Film Festival earlier this year. 3000 Nights is currently screening in Beirut

3000 Nights
Still from 3000 Nights (Photo: Courtesy of MAD Solutions)

In a recent interview with Reuters Arabic, Palestinian director Mai Masri spoke about the particularities of her recent award-winning film 3000 Nights.

The film is co-produced by Palestine, France, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Lebanon, and is currently screening at the Metropolis Cinema in Beirut.

It centres on Layal, a young newly wed Palestinian schoolteacher who is jailed in a top-security Israeli prison where she eventually gives birth.

Speaking to Reuters Arabic, Masri explained that the film was based on the real story of a Palestinian woman she had met as she was filming one of her films in her hometown of Nablus during the first Intifada.

“She affirmed that she gave birth to her son inside an Israeli jail,” explained Masri.

“I was very moved by her story, especially as she recounted that she gave birth as she was tied up, and how she raised her son behind bars."

Inspired to mold the woman’s story into a film project, Masri began meeting with other Palestinian female prisoners, and “I found out that some of them had lived the same experience of giving birth in jail.”

The film was shot in a real prison, without any set decor, as a way of preserving the film's authenticity.

“I have to confess that filming [3000 Nights] inside a real prison gave the story, and the actresses’ performance, much credibility. We placed the women in a framework which reflects [real] prison to reinforce this state of incarceration,” Masri explained. 

“The prison where we filmed [3000 Nights] is an allegory to the circumstances in which each Palestinian lives, [especially given how] around one million Palestinians were held in Israeli jails,” she added.  

Masri also discussed the filmic style, explaining how “the [film’s] background sounds are a real reflection of the voices you really hear in jail. For example, cell doors being shut, the jingle of iron chains, and so on. I believe that these sounds gave the film multiple dimensions,” Masri added. 

Of her message behind 3000 Nights, Masri asserted that “I want the audience to be touched by the strong human touch which dominates [the film], and be inspired to contribute to change in their own way, just as I was inspired when I listened to [Palestinian] women recount their stories in Israeli jails.”

3000 Nights made its world premiere in September 2015 at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). It then made its Arab world premiere in December 2015 as part of the Dubai International Film Festival’s 12th edition where it participated in the Muhr Arab Feature Films Competition.

The film also toured across Palestine right after its US premiere as part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival in early January.

In February, 3,000 Nights was shown at the European Film Market at the Berlin International Film Festival.

The film was screened in Egypt earlier this year, when it was chosen to open the Luxor Arab and European Film Festival, an event that took place between 30 January and 5 February.

It was also released at Cairo's Zawya art-house cinema in May.

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