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Your film, too, is about a woman who's something of a dissident—in her objection to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and her post-9/11 paranoia. And yet she's a participant in the Western art market and New York high society, and I'm wondering if you think the movie represents her negotiation of this complex identity, or the process of her recognizing it as incompatible.
It's about complex identity. I don't think it's incompatible. This is how we live and that's the point. You can go live in a commune, grow your own food and make your own clothes if you want, and not participate, but at some stage you are going to have to participate with the systems whether you are fighting them or not. It doesn't mean you are conceding—one can still fight to change—just that everyone in some way, especially if one has particular ideals, has to brush against things that don't resonate with them (to say the least!). A lot of the comedy and surreality of the film comes from exactly this. It's about fusion. This has also been a strong theme throughout my life as I am from a more privileged Middle Eastern background. Ban Ki Moon has to sort out issues of genocide but I bet you while in the process of doing this he may pop out to dinner, order his favourite dish and then have a hot shower, maybe with his favourite shower gel. Life is surreal when you get down to those details. That's what I'm interested in.
Do you still live in the East Village?
I left New York 18 months ago. I was getting too dependent on New York. I do think that part of my leaving was because it wasn't the same town anymore, it was getting super cheesy. I went to Veselka last month and it was full of fratboy types. There were no more interesting folk with their homemade radios and awesome hairstyles sitting alone eating perogi. It was the end of an era!
Also on the political front living outside of the US is such a breath of fresh air. You forget how isolated you are in New York. New York's also a city for the ambitious and when you leave your brain panics but then you start to see things in a more lateral way. I still get comments from people in London, saying,"Zeina, you're such a New Yorker, that's such a New York thing to say," but after 10 years living here from 23 to 33, a super formative time in ones life, that's inevitable. I like the new perspective that living in London has given me.
In an interview you did last January you described your next film, which you were preparing to shoot in Jordan—what's the current status of the project?
I have that on hold as I have a more urgent project which was a culmination of my move back to England as everything hit me head on. Moving back to where you grew up is really interesting and tough. It's a country house drama called Chinchilla Killer and it's hysterical. Think Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie but in the English countryside; modern-day, none of this romanticism about the English Upper classes;"foreign" guests who are English but considered foreign as they're only second-generation. It actually ties into a lot of your questions here as it's about a"New England." If you've ever had to do something you really didn't want to do because of your other half, you'll get this film. The protagonist goes on this weekend in this grand English house because of her boyfriend. She knows people there but is not really into it as they are rather narrow minded. It all gets too much for her and she takes revenge! It's very funny. I'm hoping to make it soon, and am looking for funding so keep your ears to the ground!