A Man needs to know where he belongs to.
SON OF ARAM
Israel. The father of a newborn baby is trying to find his own identity that he can be proud of in front of his son.
A vision of one man brings a recognition of the Aramean's ancient nation.
In the Christian community in north Israel which for thousands of years has being absorbed into the Muslim majority and named as Arabs, lives a man Shadi, who was taught that his real identity comes from the ancient Aramaic culture.
When his first son is born he gives him the name Aram and he wants to register him as Aramean, but the authorities decline and declare that the Aramean nationality does not exist. Shadi rejects their decision stating that he does not consider himself as an Arab and he will not agree to separate his son from his true identity.
Sometimes, when you start a project, you can't imagine the journey that awaits you. When I begun this film, more than 7 years ago I was a different person. The process of making SON OF ARAM became a parallel to my own life. Now I think that probably I was subconsciously looking for a character, who was asking the questions I was going to ask myself later.
When I first met Shadi Khalloul, I didn’t give much thought to where I come from or who I am. I lived a day to day life. History or cultural heritage didn’t mean a lot to me. He was different. For the first time in my life, I heard someone, telling stories which had happened thousands of years ago and was emotionally so engaged, as if it happened yesterday. It’s strange, I thought and that was the moment I knew I should press record in my camera and listen. There was something in this. Something I had never experienced. Shadi needed to be heard and we needed each other at that time. He told me the history of the lost Aramean nation, which had never gained freedom, always lived in fear and had forgotten the meaning of its language. It was his personal loss. Shadi had a huge gap inside his heart and he couldn’t find his place to live peacefully. How is it possible that he could feel the pain of the lost nation so much, I thought. He had a great vision of a different world that he was determined to fulfil it.
I decided to stay with him and observe his life with a camera to check is it possible that this vision is really present in his daily life. We were lucky, Shadi’s wife was just about to give a birth to their first son, when we arrived for the shoot. Immediately I found that the newborn child gave Shadi a reason to fight for his identity even stronger. He gave his son the name Aram and proudly brought the news to people in his community. He thought he could convince the authorities to register his son as Aramean, but his request was declined. It reminded me of the story of Jesus; of a chosen child, who brought Christianity to the world. When I found this parallel, I knew that this is the core of my film.
I came back to Poland with a pure vision, of how I wanted to tell this story, but did not expect it to take 5 years of editing. The vision did not leave me, but the material itself did not bring a solution for the story. On the worst days, it looked as if I would never finish this film. Then one day the news came from Israel, that Shadi’s second son was registered by authorities as Aramean. The Israeli government finally accepted Shadi’s request and declared that the Aramean nation has a right to be recognised. One man has changed history, a miracle, I thought, the lonely knight can win the battle. This changed my story. Suddenly something had happened and the pieces in the editing, like the puzzles of the bigger picture found their right place. My work after 7 years was finally over and the film was ready while Shadi from simple man became a public person.
Every day of these 7 years was worth the effort to push on. We should never give up the visions, which make us truthful to ourselves. The film taught me to ask difficult questions, who I am and what I want to do with my life, which I could pass on to my child proudly. Shadi was always repeating the same sentence to me “Don’t be shy because you will die”. We should ask until we are properly heard and answered. This film is an answer.
In the Christian community in north Israel which for thousands of years has being absorbed into the Muslim majority and named as Arabs, lives a man Shadi Khalloul, who was taught that his real identity comes from the ancient Aramaic culture. When his first son is born he gives him the name Aram like the ancient kings of the Aramean nation and wants to register him as Aramean, but the authorities decline and declare that the Aramean nationality does not exist. Shadi rejects their decision stating that he does not consider himself as an Arab and he will not agree to separate his son from his true identity. He decides to write to the government demanding an explanation, why Arameans are not recognised. In the first days of his newborn son being at home, Shadi is going from house to house in his community, sharing a dream of creating Aramaic as a daily modern language and his people recognised as Arameans. “Our future as a Christian minority is wrapped up in the future of the State of Israel’ - he says. The discussion about Aramean's identity raises the question of a nation without borders. Although some people are fascinated by his vision, some have doubts that real change will come. They don’t want to trust someone who serves in the Israeli Army, asking him if he really believes that they can deny the Arab culture. Shadi discovers that people need time to adapt to new ideas and ways. He accepts that he can’t change or save everyone. He comes back to his solitary space where he finds that his true identity and love for the father’s land is already inside him, and no one can take it from him. He discovers that his mission is inside his house to rise his son giving him his true identity just like his own father had done. Shadi sees that his idea is just a beginning of something that maybe his son will be able to change.
In 2014 after 7 years of struggle the Israeli government accepted Shadi’s request and recognised the Aramean nation. Now every newborn can be registered as Aramean.
leading documentary character: Shadi Khalloul
Director: Mika Rosenfeld
Script: Mika Rosenfeld
Cinematography: Malte Rosenfeld, Mika Rosenfeld
Editor: Mika Rosenfeld
Associate editor: Mariusz Kus
Music: Fabien Waltmann
and Jahanara Laura Mangus in song “Call to Prayer”
Sound recordist/sound design: Mika Rosenfeld
Sound editing: Panos Chountoulidis
Associate sound editor: Rafal Nowak
Translators: Antonio Shehadi, Elise Abu Rashed,
Dareos Khalili, Sebastian Bednarowicz
Line Producer: Lucja Kedzior - Samodulska
Production Manager: Mariusz Wlodarski
Production Assistant: Malgorzata Bereznicka
Co-producer: Mika Rosenfeld
Producers: Piotr Dzieciol, Ewa Puszczynska
Co-production: Mika Rosenfeld, Culture.pl
Production: Opus Film 2015, Poland