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“Mars at Sunrise is a thoughtful and inventive look at a seemingly endless war.” – Jeanette Catsoulis, The New York Times
“Told with loving attentiveness to memories, dreams, poems and vivid visual cues, this experimental feature illustrates the power of art to shore up the spirit.” – Kee Chang, Anthem Magazine
“[D]isplays a promising…filmmaking voice” – John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter
“This visual treat of a film is well worth seeing…A promising start by a fearless young director” – Ali Hazzah, Cinema Arabiata
“Mars at Sunrise is one of the first true indie gems to hit theaters in 2014” – Richard Propes, Theindependentcritic.com
“Mars at Sunrise …is an accomplishment” – Kenneth R. Morefield, 1 More Film Blog
Huffington Post Live
Director Jessica Habie, and co-stars Ali Suliman and Guy Elhanan join Mike Sacks in the Huffington Post Live studio. In a short clip, Guy gives his thoughts on the current state of the Middle East peace process. The full segment features an interview with the trio about their experience making the film.
Dreamscapes of a Nightmarish Conflict ‘Mars at Sunrise,’ Directed by Jessica Habie
By Jeannette Catsoulis
New York Times
“Mars at Sunrise” is a thoughtful and inventive look at a seemingly endless war. More than anything, the ambivalence written into the roles — and poignantly captured by the performers — seems to suggest that while taking sides is not impossible, it is almost certainly fruitless.
A Conversation with Guy El Hanan, Jessica Habie, and Ali Suliman
The cinematic trio on the complexities of circumstance, the absurdity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and their film Mars at Sunrise.
By Kee Chang
An increasing number of films have unspooled in recent years that takes new and different tacks on the seemingly inexhaustible Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jessica Habie’s Mars at Sunrise does just that. Already a seasoned documentary filmmaker, she has chosen to depart from the binding structures of such an undertaking with her latest effort of fiction, which in actuality is inspired by artist Hani Zurob and his irrevocable clash with violence. A small, deliberate film with a kind of offbeat solemnity, Mars at Sunrise is the portrait of Khaled (Ali Suliman), a Palestinian artist—interrogated, beaten, confined, and capable of doing only one thing well—and Eyal (Guy El Hanan), an Israeli soldier waging a war of wills in his unsuccessful attempt at recruiting the captive as an informant. Told with loving attentiveness to memories, dreams, poems and vivid visual cues, this experimental feature illustrates the power of art to shore up the spirit.
Assured debut film portrays Palestinian artist’s triumph over Israeli jailor
By Maureen Clare Murphy
The Electronic Intifada
In addition to the novelty of the focus of the story, which she wrote, Habie offers an exciting new artistic sensibility. Precise camera work and theatrical staging of each scene, thoughtful sound editing and the genre-crossing, multilingual soundtrack bringMars at Sunrise so vibrantly to life and make it a true cinematic experience.
The Artist vs. the Soldier: Mighty Movie Reviews Mars at Sunrise
By Dan Persons
Habie takes an impressionistic approach to telling her story — fracturing the timeline for both combatants, frequently segueing into poetic interludes that delve into the characters’ pyches, and introducing a Jewish-American poet for Khaled to tell his tale to. Her goal, she’s said, was to avoid the clichés and stridency a more straightforward telling would engender. It works, although the flashback structure doesn’t seem completely necessary, and the fractured timeline at times obscures whether we’re watching how the characters wound up the people they are or how their states are evolving in the midst of the present narrative. There’s a certain benefit to a spare narrative, not the least being the lack of a comforting aestheticism to intervene between the drama and its impact on the viewer, no drumbeating necessary. Given what we understand of these people, though, the poetry is certainly well motivated, and doesn’t seriously undercut the anguish of the situation.
According to Habie, the artist Zurob initially rejected her gambit to make Khaled’s tormentor a fellow artist, only to come around once he actually viewed the film. It speaks well of Habie’s ability to generate empathy for all involved without failing to acknowledge their culpability in their actions. The complexity goes all the way to a post-flashback encounter between Khaled and Eyal, the gestures of both characters — and the fact that they could be interpreted several ways — speaking volumes about Habie’s understanding that no one tale is going to resolve what decades of conflict have spawned. The war will go on, until enough people turn to their better wills to make it stop.
“Mars at Sunrise”
By Amy R. Handler
What is immediately noticeable about Mars At Sunrise is its novel approach to the Arab-Israeli struggle. Instead of favoring one side or the other, as most filmmakers are prone to do, Habie zooms in on the psyche of each man, showing their surprising likenesses. She does this through fractured-narrative, color, flashbacks, poetic-voiceover, and music-as-character. While this experimental-dreamscape journey into the inner minds of her principal characters may not appeal to some, I think that Habie’s competence in this arena makes her plot far easier to understand than if the story were told in linear fashion. What Habie manages to capture is how most people would think were they in similar circumstances, and this universalism is what makes her film both frightening and riveting at the same time.
Read more: http://www.filmthreat.com/reviews/75644/?_r=true#ixzz30qSbRFbG
“Mars at Sunrise” Opens February 7th at NYC’s Quad Cinema
by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
Too often relegated to supporting roles, Ali Suliman is given a real chance to shine in Mars at Sunrise and he certainly makes the most of it by offering a performance that is simultaneously emotionally riveting and poetic and radiating the artist’s strength and vulnerability. Guy El Hanan, on the other hand, manages to make a challenging character rich with humanity against tremendous odds and, as Azzadeh, Haale Gafori essentially serves as a bridge between past and present but does so with tremendous intelligence and presence.
The Palestinian struggle through the prism of four new films
By Louis Proyect
The Unrepentant Marxist
It has a dream-like quality that utilizes the canvases of its artist lead character to create a visual and psychological canvas of Palestinian hopes and frustration. There is not a conventional plot, only a stream of vignettes that depict Palestinian experience under conditions of occupation and loss.
Fajr Falestine fund to support projects about Arab world
By Manori Ravindran
A new film fund entitled Fajr Falestine will support the production of experimental narrative features and documentaries from the Middle East, with a focus on Palestine.
The fund, created by directors Jessica Habie and Deema Dabis, will form a collective of five selected filmmakers who will receive financial support to make experimental works looking at political, social and cultural issues in the Middle East. The fund, managed and overseen by non-profit creative agency Eyes Infinite Foundation, aims to release five film projects every two years.
The inaugural group of artists will be chosen by a panel of judges including Amreeka director Cherien Dabis, Arab Film Festival programmer Laurence Mazouni, actress Najla Said, cinema scholar Robert Keser, director-producer Natalie Handalm, Palestinian artist Sharif Waked and director-producer Iman Aoun.
Interview with Dr. Ramzi Salti on Arabology KZSU Stanford 90.1FM
Mars at Sunrise writer and director Jessica Habie discusses the film with Arabology host Dr. Ramzi Salti, Lecturer in Arabic at Stanford University along with Serge Bakalian, Executive Director of the Arab Film Festival, ahead of the film’s screening at the festival in San Francisco, California on Oct 12, 2013. Interview begins at 53:30.
Ladies Take the Night At San Francisco’s Arab Film Festival
By Farah Jahan Siddiqui Bullara
Jessica Habie’s first feature film, Mars at Sunrise, is a deeply imaginative, bold meditation on the resilience of the human imagination and the triumph of art. While working as a documentary filmmaker in Palestine, Habie realized that a fresh approach was needed to communicate the Palestinian dilemma. The filmmaker became interested in exploring the relationship between artists and social change and was inspired by the renowned Palestinian artist, Hani Zurob. By including actual stories and testimonies and combining them with an experimental film style, Mars at Sunrise is a stark departure from the typical cinema verité narratives about Palestine. Habie’s abstract approach to the Palestinian/Israeli quagmire is bold and original. Using art to weave a surrealist, poetic storyline, which enfolds like visual free verse, Habie addresses both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict through the eyes of two frustrated artists—one an Israeli soldier and the other a Palestinian prisoner. Both artists paint their own realities of lives dominated by brutality and show how each of them is victimized in their own way—the Palestinian as a victim of Israeli occupation and the Israeli soldier as a victim of his country’s oppressive military industrial complex that produces oppressors.
Sisters Behind The Camera: Arab Women Directors At Arab Film Fest
Arab Women Coming Into Their Own As Film Directors
Painting as an act of resistance in “Mars at Sunrise”
By Rebecca Romani
KPBS Public Broadcasting
While Habie wrote most of the film, some of the dialog, especially those in the interrogation scenes, are inspired by the experiences of renowned Palestinian artist, Hani Zurob, (played by Ali Suliman of “Paradise Now”) now living in exile in Paris.
Habie worked mainly in Nazareth, and partially over the border in Ramallah and Jenin, with a mixed (Israeli/Palestinian) crew and cast. Not every shoot went smoothly, although having an American passport allowed her to move more easily around Nazareth. Often, issues such as identity controls and other problems which affected her Arab actors/crew were heartbreaking, said Habie.
Much of her Arab crew, especially those in Ramallah had worked with the well-known Palestinian director, Elia Suleiman (“Divine Intervention”) and many of her actors are part of the Palestinian theater community of northern Israel. A friend of the well-known Freedom Theatre, founded in Jenin by Israeli activist Arna Mer Khamis and her son Juliano Mer Khamis, a Palestinian-Israeli actor, Habie would have loved to work with this group as well, she said, but the daily issues with borders crossings and searches at checkpoints for Palestinians in the Occupied territories wanting to cross into Israel precluded it. Instead, says Habie, the film is dedicated to Juliano Mer Khamis who was assassinated in front of his theater in 2011.
New Pathways in Contemporary Arab Cinema
By Shimrit Lee
While exploring testimonies and stories concerning discrimination, torture and freedom of movement, the film is ultimately about the boundlessness of an artist’s imagination during a period of solitary confinement.
At the premiere screening during this year’s 17th annual Arab Film Festival (AFF) in San Francisco, Habie spoke to the audience about her motivation: “I’ve always been inspired by the relationship between artists and social change, what artists can say and how they can say things in different ways [to] provoke new ways of talking about a situation.”
Jessica Habie’s unusual MARS AT SUNRISE tackles the Israel/Palestine problem via “art”
By James van Maanen
“Habie’s combination of art, music and poetry, along with lush and beautifully framed visuals in service to a relatively simple story works well enough to divert us and make us think and connect during her film’s short (just 75 minutes) running time.”
“Powerful, poignant, beautifully filmed. Jessica Habie really knows how to get into the minds of her characters and succeeds in taking the viewer on a mental and emotional roller coaster that is deliberately disturbing yet simultaneously cathartic.”
-Ramzi Salti, Ph.D., Stanford University
“Wow. [Mars at Sunrise] was a very powerful film. [Jessica Habie] handled a very difficult issue that must be talked about really quite beautifully. Yes, it was outrageously painful, but the added artistic nuance gave a context for the whole situation verging on the cusp of insanity that made the whole thing more palatable. I liked the mix of poetry, the use of absurdity, the acting was excellent, the music was great, and it managed to portray a story that is very well known but much untold in Palestine, and I really appreciated that the filmmaker was able to do it in a way that was not cliché, as so many films about Palestine seem to be. It was fresh, original, creative, well-written, and overall a really impressive film. Artistically, politically, aesthetically, philosophically, poetically, it all worked extremely well.”
– Soha Al-Jurf, Author of Even My Voice Is Silence
“[Mars at Sunrise] manage[s] to broach a subject that is horrific and upsetting graphically, and yet with a gentleness that makes it accessible and allows for sympathy and understanding. And the character of Eyal is brilliantly drawn, since, in a way, he becomes the reluctant tragic center of the film, a counter-balance to the cruelty that all service such as his forces on (usually) young people. Congratulations on a work of astonishing bravery and courage, and hope.”
– Fred Samia, Co-Producer, Voices in Exile, Immigrants and the First Amendment
“It’s my pleasure to talk about this film, I really liked the bold editing of the story as it was jumping between reality and memories which provided a sense of understanding of character. I also like the way the Palestinian conflict was presented in the film though the artist perspective, because I believe that the choice of the artist character is a smart choice simply because it is more sympathetic.”
– Tarzan of Gaza Born Filmmaking Duo Arab and Tarzan, Fajr Falestine Collective Members
“Mars at Sunrise is an incredible film that somehow through surpassing logic reveals the absurdity in things that have become ‘normal.’ A visual journey through the mind of an imprisoned artist and the imaginative power that bursts through.”
-Deema Dabis, Filmmaker and Co-Founder of Fajr Falestine Film Collective
WATCH CINEMA POLITICA INTERVIEW WITH PRODUCER AND FREQUENCY DESIGNER NIRAH SHIRAZIPOUR