×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mats Grorud on Palestine, Animation and Hope

“The Tower,” the debut of Norway’s Mats Grorud, features as a Special Screening at the Marrakech Film Festival. Produced by Tenk TV (based out of Bærum, Norway), Les Contes Modernes (Bourg-Lès-Valence, France) and Goteborg-based Cinenic Film, the animated film revolves around the Palestinian diaspora since the creation of Israel in 1948, seen from the eyes of Wardi, an 11-year-old Palestinian girl living with her family in the refugee camp where she was born.

Grorud worked as an animation teacher in the Bourj el-Barajneh refugee camp, established by The League of Red Cross Societies to host Palestinian refugees from northern Israel. Based on his experience and research there, he created the story of “The Tower.” Children living in Bourj el-Barajneh represent around 43% of the camp’s total population, which is close to 21,000 (in addition to 20,000 recent Syrian refugees), all living within one square kilometer. “The Tower”‘s international sales are handled by Paris-based Jour2Fête.

Why did you choose the point of view of an 11-year-old Palestinian girl to depict such a long and painful conflict? 

Living in a camp, I witnessed a session where a group of elders told the young about what happened to them in 1948. Everybody was crying together. It touched me a lot. The traumas and wounds of 1948 remain and will be there as long as people are stuck in the camps. I chose the point of view of an 11-year-old, as I wanted to raise the question of how and if it is possible to find hope in the situation the Palestinians find themselves in. And if so, these questions could only be illuminated by a young person at the start of life, when we all have dreams and hopes intact.

And why did you choose to make an animated movie?

We worked with the language that we thought was appropriate. Animation can be a way of distancing oneself from something and still present an original take on it. Animation is one way of recreating spaces that have been erased as a consequence of the expulsion of Palestinians from their lands. A different way of looking. Animation is not just for kids. It can add lyricism.

You were born in Norway. What was your personal link with Lebanon, because “The Tower” seems a very heartfelt film.

My mother worked as a nurse in Lebanon during the 1980s. She would go and come back, and I and my siblings would see pictures of the camps. During the First Intifada in 1989, we lived for a year in Cairo and went to Gaza and Jerusalem. I was 12 years old then, so seeing kids my age on every street corner making “V” signs made a lasting impression on me. Later, I went to live in Lebanon myself in the camp of Bourj el-Barajneh, and I got the idea for the film, which simply was to tell the stories of my friends from the camp and their families. To share the wisdom, humor and warmth that I felt from people. As well as the ugliness of this fate, forever stuck in camps.

You have mixed several techniques – 2D, puppet animation, real photographs. What was the criteria for choosing each one and the challenges to build a coherent whole?

To me, the tactility and texture of the puppets and sets make it perfect to represent Wardi’s real world today. Also, in puppet animation we are used to using whatever we have at hand, and this is exactly what people do constructing their towers in the camp, so it was too good a parallel to be left out. The flashbacks in the film are set in a lot of different environments and had crowds of people. We also pursued the possibility to be surreal in our visuals, dramatizing the experiences people had in their pasts. 2D was both a practical and artistic choice. The pictures came into the film the same way they came into my life as a child. I have used my mother’s pictures from the camps, as well as from my friends’ private albums. Our main concern about combining the three techniques was how to find the balance between them.

What’s next?

I am continuing to work together with Mozambican art director Rui Tenreiro. It will be a modern take on the pirate genre, in which young militants fight for resources against international oil giants. A tale of young heroism and resistance set in the mangrove swamps of the Delta. The idea is in the early development stage.

More Film

  • Once Upon a Deadpool trailer

    Box Office: 'Once Upon a Deadpool' Earns $1 Million on Wednesday

    Fox’s “Once Upon a Deadpool,” a reimagining of “Deadpool 2,” picked up $1 million from 1,566 theaters during Wednesday previews. In the PG-13 version, the Merc with a Mouth retells the heroic sequel as a bedtime story to Fred Savage a la “Princess Bride.” Because there aren’t clear comps, rival studios and industry analysts weren’t [...]

  • Queen of Scots Hair and Makeup

    'Mary Queen of Scots' Hair, Makeup Artist Gave Substance and Style to Battling Queens

    Jenny Shircore has done the makeup and hair of several queens over the years: Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth” and “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” (she won an Oscar for the former) and Emily Blunt in “The Young Victoria.”  In fact, she had to be convinced to do it again for Saoirse Ronan’s Queen Mary and Margot Robbie’s [...]

  • Richard E. Grant Variety Facetime Interview

    Richard E. Grant on Working With Melissa McCarthy on 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?'

    Richard E. Grant has been winning kudos for his supporting role in Fox Searchlight’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” The film, written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty, was directed by Marielle Heller and stars Melissa McCarthy as real-life celebrity biography Lee Israel. Was “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” a fast shoot? Yes, 26 days and [...]

  • WME Veteran Ari Greenburg Promoted to

    WME Veteran Ari Greenburg Promoted to President of Talent Agency

    WME veteran Ari Greenburg, one of the original Endeavor staffers who helped build the talent agency that became an industry powerhouse, has been promoted to president. Greenburg will oversee all daily operations across WME and its offices in Beverly Hills, New York, Nashville, London and Sydney. The promotion recognizes the role that Greenburg has played [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron Says He Owes 'Roma'

    Alfonso Cuaron Says He Owes 'Roma' in Part to Cannes' Thierry Fremaux

    At a special screening of “Roma” in Paris, Alfonso Cuaron said he owed the film to Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux, who encouraged him to return to Mexico to make a movie – and who, ironically, failed to nab the title for Cannes because of the festival’s spat with Netflix. Fremaux was eager to select [...]

  • Forrest Gump

    Guild of Music Supervisors Awards to Honor Joel Sill; King Princess to Perform (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Guild of Music Supervisors has announced that Joel Sill will receive the organization’s Legacy Award for his contribution to music in film. Sill’s body of work includes “Forrest Gump,” “The Goonies,” “Blade Runner,” “The Color Purple” and “My Cousin Vinny.” He will be joined by Spotify’s RISE artist, King Princess, who will be performing as [...]

  • Vice Christian Bale Sam Rockwell Playback

    Listen: Christian Bale and Sam Rockwell on Early Acting Days and Reuniting for 'Vice'

    PLAYBACK is a Variety / iHeartRadio podcast bringing you conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films. New episodes air every Thursday. Oscar-winning actors Christian Bale and Sam Rockwell first met 20 years ago on the Italy-set production of Michael Hoffman’s Shakespeare adaptation “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” With the business in their blood [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content