A Line in the Sand

Project: Borders...
October 1, 1999

Project: Borders

Description: A one-hour special focusing on the concept of borders as geographic and political delineations, for which people give their lives.

Producer: Nurit Kedar

Director: Eran Riklis

Distributor: PowerSports Millennium (world), Broadcast Video (Israel)

Budget: Approx. US$160,000

Few consider the concepts dividing nations. For Tel Aviv-based producer Nurit Kedar, however, the quest to find meaning in her own war-torn nation became a five-year project, culminating in an hour entitled Borders.

The concept for Borders came to Kedar in 1995, when she was struck by the concept of borders as dynamic barriers, which change at the whim of politics, but are veiled in an importance for which people will sacrifice themselves. Kedar wanted to document events in her own country, and by doing so, put the concept of borders as both word and living reality to the test.

1995: Kedar takes her idea to Israeli broadcasters and producers, but fails to illicit any interest. She continues her search at MIPCOM, meeting with a well-known French producer who promises to read her script and story outline. Two weeks later, she is turned down. Undaunted, she approaches several British broadcasters, each of whom reject her.

1997: Nurit travels to Cuba to shoot a story commissioned by an Israeli television station. She and the crew talk long into the night about their goals, and the things they give up for money, steady income and security. She tells the crew about Borders. Soundman Michael Haris, and cameraman Uzi Eliyo, offer their services for free.

Summer 1997: With a push from Haris and Eliyo, Kedar approaches the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) to get access to Israel’s borders. It is a privilege usually reserved for soldiers, and then only with special permits – and rarely granted to women. Nurit calls on the help of some `friends’ and gets the permits.

With papers in hand, but almost no money or equipment, Kedar phones Eliyo to see if he is still prepared to go with her. One week later, they are both at the Israeli-Lebanese border.

September 1997: Shooting begins (using Kedar’s own money), and continues on and off until January. Haris, Kedar’s soundman, joins the two in October. The three spend a great deal of time in the region, one of the most explosive of Israel’s borders, often crossing between the two countries – a dangerous but necessary part of the film.

For four days, they film 40 km behind the Lebanese border, capturing footage of southern Lebanon, a region where the Israeli army and the Christian Militia struggle against the Muslim Syrian Army and Hezbollah.

Kedar and Eliyo concentrate on shooting `check points’ – areas where Lebanese workers enter Israel. The laborers are leery and don’t want to be shown on camera, fearing that if the Israeli army should leave Lebanon, Hezbollah might seek them out. But Kedar wants to tell their story, and shows up each day at 3 a.m. as they line up for entry.

Life on the border is brought home to Kedar as snipers strafe the line of cars they travel in. As everyone runs for cover, Kedar is trapped on the floor of her car, unable to move. When the shooting subsides, the crew continues on to Marge Ayoun, but Kedar is sobered by the experience. She had ignored idf warnings to not film on certain days, and the consequences have been made apparent. She is risking her crew’s safety. Uzi is a father of four. She herself has three sons (one serving in the Israeli army).

December 1997: Kedar is out of money, and her bank will not extend any more credit. She learns of a grant offered by The New Foundation for Movie and Video, a government agency. She begins preparations on the submission materials. Of 600 submissions, only 20 will be chosen.

February 1998: Kedar submits the grant package, but is advised that she will need a well-known director attached to it. Kedar turns to long-time friend, Eran Riklis, an award-winning drama director. Because Kedar wants Borders to unfold more like a dramatic film than a documentary, Riklis is the right choice. After viewing the footage shot in Northern Israel, he commits to the project.

Soon after, through other `connections,’ Kedar is given the opportunity to meet with a terrorist organization involved in arms smuggling. They have conditions, however: she must come alone and use their cameraman. She must disguise her interview subject, and they must approve all the footage before it is used. Lastly, she must leave a photograph of herself, in case she violates any of these conditions. It will make it easier for them to hunt her. Kedar agrees to everything, except the photograph.

April 1998: Kedar learns that she has qualified for the US$40,000 grant.

She also hears of a border station in Jericho (between Jordan and Israel), which both Israeli and Palestinian guards share. A Palestinian soldier is willing to be interviewed. The insanity of the conflict is demonstrated for Kedar: the station straddles the border, with the two hostile armies separated by only a door. A Palestinian soldier then stands on one side of a sign (no bigger than a road hazard sign), and demonstrates that he is on the side of Palestinian authority. A single step to the right, and he proclaims that he is in Israel.

May 1998: Kedar and crew travel to Raphiach to interview a Palestinian who is an Israeli collaborator. In the middle of the interview, the Israeli secret service descends, and the collaborator is taken away. It takes several days and all the contacts she has at the IDF, but Kedar manages to get her collaborator back to finish the interview.

The negotiations with the arms dealers have come to an end, and Kedar travels to Gazza. Her cameraman, Eliyo, waits at the border. Kedar also contacts a friend in the secret service, and tells him where she will be…just in case.

Kedar and the terrorists begin the interview. They claim to be doing the interview to prove they are not afraid of the army or police, and that they can live their normal lives without interruption. They intend to be shown as heroes, and Kedar knows they think the doc will help further their purposes.

Shot on Super 8, Kedar is forced to smuggle the tapes out of Gaza by hiding them on her body. She counts on the fact that she is a women, and that her close-cropped blonde hair will keep her from looking Israeli, to get over without trouble. The ruse works, and she gets the footage over the border.

Summer 1998: Kedar feels shooting is finished. She contacts a Tel Aviv post-production facility, Broadcast Video Ltd., for a possible partnership. Although they don’t formally commit, they view some footage, and request the first right to negotiate a partnership. Although not formally partners, Broadcast Video informs Kedar that they have managed to sell Borders to Israeli broadcaster, Channel 2. This brings $40,000 to the project.

October 1998: Broadcast Video formally commits to partnership. They offer funds, equipment, and editing facilities. Editing begins in earnest.

During the editing process, Kedar learns of a wedding about to take place near the Israeli-Syrian border. The wedding is unusual in that the bride lives in Israel and will have to cross into Syria to join her groom. In such cases, once the bride crosses into the other zone, she will never again be allowed back to see her family.

Kedar rounds up her crew and heads for the Golan Heights to begin filming the family at 4 a.m. on the day of the wedding. They follow the bride to the beauty parlor, then tag along with the tearful procession of family and friends to the border.

And there they wait. Israeli authorities forbid the father to cross with his daughter, and although the bride has papers allowing her entry, the Syrians refuse her, as they do not recognize the Israeli stamps on the document. At 5 p.m., after a day of arguments, the wedding is postponed, leaving their families devastated.

Four months later, Kedar learns that the bride crossed the border quietly later on, with no wedding dress, and no festivities to mark her wedding day.

January 1999: Through mutual acquaintances, footage from Borders is presented to PowerSports Millennium in California (a relative of one of the PowerSports principles is Kedar’s neighbor), with a request for post-production suggestions to make the project viable for international broadcast.

March 1999: Editing is completed. The final production cost comes to US$160,000. PowerSports Millennium negotiates with Broadcast Video to become the international distributor on the project. The production is picked up by RTVE in Spain, who air it a week after getting the rights. NHK picks up Japanese rights almost immediately after.

July 1999: Borders wins the Discovery Channel Award at the Munich Film Festival’s MediaNet Awards.

October 1999: Power Sports Millennium represents Borders at MIPCOM.

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.