Filmmaker Jarrar discusses border walls, conflict at film screening

Khaled Jarrar, director of “Infiltrators,” participated in a Q&A after the documentary showing in the Digital Media Arts Center Nov. 4. GABRIELLA ANDERSON Staff Photographer

Khaled Jarrar has always hated borders. And walls.

“It’s so ugly to see walls in nature because walls bring more hate and bring more fears. This is how the system of racism is working,” Jarrar said. “These walls are just hiding the beauty and the reality of life.”

Jarrar’s debut documentary “Infiltrators” was screened in the Digital Media Arts Center Nov. 4 by Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences in conjunction with the Master’s program in international studies. The event included an interactive question and answer portion with Jarrar after the feature presentation. With dialogue entirely in Arabic, the film followed the day-to-day hardships of Palestinians as they sought to sneak beyond the borders and into Jerusalem.

Jarrar’s filmmaking career began in mid-2008 to create “Infiltrators,” a vision he thought would be best served with documentary storytelling due to the wide variety of Palestinian people that the film features. Despite being a multidisciplinary artist of mediums from photography to sculpting to painting, Jarrar emphasized that his medium is merely a side effect of the narrative, not the other way around.

“My way of approaching things is more about following the story. For me it’s all about working with the medium in a way that the medium suits the concept or the idea that I’m working on,” Jarrar said.

Jarrar has reaped numerous awards such as the Muhr Arab Documentary Prize and International Critics Prize at the 2012 Dubai International Film Festival, he also received the 2013 Gold Hugo for best Documentary at the Chicago International Film Festival for his approach to documentary filmmaking, that concerns itself less with film aesthetic and rather a genuine portrayal of the Palestinian people.

“(The documentary) is done in a manner that is appropriate and it’s not really exploitative cinema,” said Jackie Domi, a senior film studies major. “It’s very realist, which is the right mode to convey this kind of story.”

Another of Jarrar’s works that blurs the lines between art and activism is the Hunger Wall he created in Helsinki, Finland, in 2014. The piece brings awareness to the clear distinction between the city’s upper class prosperity to poverty and famish that lies beneath the surface.

Jarrar created another piece partially in the United States, exploring the motif of barriers and separation further by travelling to the U.S.-Mexico border in conjunction with Culturunners, an artist-led production company. Jarrar took a remnant of the wall and reconfigured it into a ladder which now exists as a permanent sculpture in Juarez, Mexico.

Juan Bustillo, a graduate student in the international studies program, agreed with Jarrar’s sentiment about walls and borders, praising “Infiltrators” for its ability to show how much these borders “are arbitrary and that there is a world outside of them as well.”

This concept is a driving force behind “Infiltrators” and now Jarrar’s new documentary-in-progress “Displaced in Heaven,” which accounts the journey of Syrian refugees to Europe. It is scheduled to be released in the next four months.