‘If these youngsters can talk to each other in this school, then there is hope
for us here,” says director David Fisher, in an interview at the Jerusalem Film
Festival after the first screening of his latest documentary, Mostar Round-Trip.
The film, which is playing at cinematheques throughout the country, will also be
broadcast on Channel 2 on August 28.
This complex film details the
journey of Fisher’s son, Yuval, who decided at age 16 that he wanted to study
abroad, and finished high school in a United World College school in Mostar,
Bosnia-Herzegovina, which was on the border between the Bosnians and Croatians
in the bitter civil war in the former Yugoslavia. Fisher uses the film to
explore Mostar itself, the connections among the students at the school (where
Israeli Jews and Arabs study with Bosnians and room with each other), and, most
important, his relationship with his son and how it evolves when his son is far
Initially, Fisher was not enthusiastic when his son (who
attended the film’s premiere in a T-shirt imprinted with the words, “Frankly my
dear, I don’t give a damn”) said he wanted to study abroad.
What did I do wrong?” he says. He did not help Yuval in his quest to find a
school, but he didn’t stand in his son’s way. When Yuval chose Mostar from the
roster of United World College’s campuses (his other options included Hong Kong,
Italy and dozens of other countries), Fisher was apprehensive.
about Bosnia the way people from abroad think about Israel.”
realizing that his son needed to settle in, he waited a decent interval before
showing up with his camera. Yuval accepted his filmmaker father’s presence,
especially since his father gave him final cut approval: “I told him he could
participate in the editing, that he would have the right of cutting the
Part of what led Fisher to the project was that, for years, his
relationship with Yuval had been troubled: “In Israel, people would tell me,
it’s so wonderful to talk to Yuval, but with me, he wouldn’t talk. He was always
on his computer. But when he went away, I became part of his virtual world. We
are both night owls, so we would see that we were both online late at night and
we would talk.”
FISHER, WHO discovered much about his own father while
working on a documentary about him, soon felt that he needed to go to Mostar and
visit his son’s new world.
The other Israeli students at the school
become characters in the film, especially Niva, who was initially appalled to
find herself stuck in Bosnia, and Salam, Yuval’s roommate, an Israeli Arab who
is a selfstyled playboy and heartbreaker.
Inevitably, the Israelis get
into political arguments with their international fellow students, and with each
other, particularly since part of the film was made during the 2008-2009 war in
Seeing Yuval engage in political discussions was a revelation for
“I felt I went to meet someone new,” says Fisher.
was impressed at how he could be warm and open with Salam, but could also argue
with him and not give up on his opinions. And that after a fight, when he saw
Salam was tired, he could give him sugar and a hug.”
Fisher also got to
know a different side of his son as he spent time with Yuval and his Spanish
“As a father, you are usually not there to see your
child fall in love. But here, I got to be around them. It was a peek into
another world. When they said goodbye, I saw that this is a man parting from a
woman. It was very special.”
Not surprisingly, at times Yuval found his
father’s presence – and his father’s camera and camera crew – intrusive. Fisher
was reminded of a long struggle between the two over making movies, and found
clips of Yuval as a very young child, telling his father to stop filming and
push him on a swing.
“I realized that with children, however much you
give is not enough. They always want more. I felt I’m coming there, coming all
this way to see him, but he felt at times it was just that I wanted to make a
They talked all of this out, both on camera and off.
didn’t completely understand how many questions I had for him,” says
“But through watching him make his way in a different, very
complex country, build relationships with other Israelis, with Salam, with his
girlfriend, I saw that we were creating circles that eventually
“The film was like a ballet,” says Fisher.
together and we separate. We get angry at each other and we forgive each other.
There is a process going on here, and it’s still going on.”