Ala Daka and Susanna Papian in an excerpt from the film "Monkey Garden" directed by Avi Nesher / Courtesy of United King Films
Actor Ala Daqa is very busy with the question of his identity. "My identity is like a Pandora's box that I'm constantly trying to open more and more," he says. "Within the place we live in and in the reality in which I grew up, the shells of identity are peeling off. The Pandora of identity occupies basically all the people who live here, certainly in a vibrant time like now, when all the demons of identity float and jump out. I don't have a crisis about identity. My identity is a crisis."
The issue of identity – both personal and national – is at the center of two new productions starring Ala Daka. The first is the film "Monkey Garden" written and directed by Avi Nesher, which will be screened at the Haifa Film Festival as part of the prestigious Masters of the festival. The second, the play "Mangalish Passport" will be staged at the Acre Festival for another theater in the competitive framework. This is his first play, and he also stars in the title role.
The play is described as "a pathetic satire on the underground." At its center is Watten, a man without much luck, who one fine day discovers that he has been chosen to become a citizen of a small, new and developing island country called Mangal. Watten, who feels that his future as an Arab in Israel is not going to improve anytime soon, decides to embark on a journey to obtain his passport in order to start over elsewhere, but he receives a delusional threshold condition from the passport office - to kick his mother's ass. This condition leads him to a head-on confrontation with everything he knew, and leads him to wonder: Will Watten agree to give up everything for the Promised Land? The play is signed as director Lior Zakai, and alongside Daka Hannah Azoulay Hasfari plays his mother, as well as Almog Roseno and Ze'ev Shimshoni (watch an excerpt from the play - below).
Ala Daka/Reuven Castro
In your play, there's an intriguing idea: Watten had to kick his mother's ass to get a passport. Is it a satirical-allegorical image that the Jewish establishment expects Palestinians to deny their roots, including the Nakba, or is it related to the problematic expectation of many Israeli Arab Jews to be connected only to their Israeli identity and not to their Palestinian identity?
"It has to do with those two things. And the third thing that kicking the ass has to do with is the kind of coming-of-age crisis that the protagonist has. He is in a late adolescent crisis, under a mother who is controlling both of his life and of the reality he sees. Her family story is something that remains obscure. She doesn't connect him to a national story because society dictated it to her, because she doesn't want to endanger her son and because she doesn't want to put weight on his back. Then it explodes for him, and for her, in the face. Somewhere Israeli culture wants to make Palestinians or Israeli Arabs leave aside their past in order to move forward into the future, let's integrate and forget what was. But you can't forget about what 'was', because it's still there. That's why it's hard to leave the past behind. The attempt to leave the past behind is proving tragic."
Where in your personal life did you feel that people expected you to "kick your mother's ass" or deny your roots or leave your past behind?
"First of all, leaving the past behind is something I grew up on at home. We grew up in Beersheba, in a Hebrew-speaking environment. My parents, despite their deep understanding of what happened and despite the wounds they left because of what happened, raised their children with the idea of moving forward and not looking back. My sisters were sent to study in Italy. So the thought of not attaching too much importance to it also comes from home. And it also came from outside.
"When I moved to Tel Aviv and began to deal with my identity, then of course Tel Aviv is a city that embraces these characteristics. Over time, I began to understand that this identity story and the story of leaving the past behind is not only of the Palestinians, it is also of the Mizrahim, they were also asked to leave the past behind. Hannah Azoulay Hesperi joins this journey. She, too, is originally from Beersheba, and we both grew up relatively close to each other in the city and Beersheba in both of our blood. Somewhere, this question of identity caught up with both of us, and it was a kind of summit meeting to discuss this issue."
More in Walla!
"Dad drank the poison and I felt my body scream."
See full article >
Ala Daka/Reuven Castro
Hannah Azoulay Hasfari is a Jew who plays an Arab woman in your play. You are an Arab and have been signed twice in your career for Jewish roles. It reminded me of the protest that took place two years ago in Hollywood called JewFace, about the weight of blackface, against casting non-Jews to play Jews. For example, they protested against Helen Mirren, who played Golda. Does the political court castrate art sometimes?
"I don't agree with this protest. There's something about her that kills the drama. At the end of the day, what people want to see on stage and in film is a bleeding heart. It touches a person no matter who he is. It can be Palestinian, Arab, Jewish or Mizrahi. You want to meet an actor who tells you a certain story, who brings his heart to talk. It is true that Hannah Azoulay Hasfari will play the role differently than an Arab actress will play it, but Hannah brings things that only Hannah can bring. By the way, we had a question about whether Hannah, who plays an Arab, would play with or without an accent. We decided she would play without an accent. There is also almost no Arabic in the play. The point was to touch the root of the problem, and therefore we had to disconnect from direct things that could have implications for current events and everyday life. We also wanted it to be a universal and big story."
I understood that before Hannah was chosen for the role, he was offered to several Arab actresses who gave it up. Why did they choose to leave?
"True, there were some Arab actresses who retired. I think they couldn't understand the humor and our way of touching on this subject. The thought of kicking my ass came from trying to go a little farther, to create an allegory, as much as possible. I think they quit because of the kick in the ass as well. My mother also didn't understand why I was kicking my mother's character in the ass in the play."
Ala Daka/Reuven Castro
Ala Daka has another reason to celebrate this holiday season. "Monkey Garden," Avi Nesher's 13th feature film, is released today (Thursday). Daka plays in the film alongside Adir Miller, Suzanna Papian, three of the stars of "Wonderful Land" - Shani Cohen, Yaniv Biton and Eran Zarhovitch - and Rina also succeeds in a guest role. The comic film, inspired by a true story, deals with the career of Amitai Kariv (Miller), an Israeli writer who succeeded in the 60s but faded over the years. Now, in the late 80s, Amitai is going to war for his place in the Israeli literary heritage. For the comeback, he hires an ambitious young literary scholar, or at least someone who can credibly masquerade as one. This is Margo, a failed actress, who settles in her sister's house and must start making a living, and jumps at the mysterious job offer. Fate brings together the desperate writer and the eccentric young woman who will change each other's lives forever. In addition to dealing with identity, the film also deals with the way a canon is formed, the subject of artistic and commercial success, and the question "How do I want to be remembered?" The film was nominated for 11 Ophir Awards, including nominations in the category of Director for Nesher and Supporting Actor for Ala Daka, but did not win any awards. However, the film was purchased for international distribution by Fandango.
Daka plays Amir, an Israeli director who returns from Rome to direct a documentary in Israel, and develops an affair with Margo, played by Susanna Papian. This is Avi Nesher's second film in a row in which Daka stars, after he played in "The Victory Picture", a film that included the reenactment of the battle and the fall of Kibbutz Nitzanim in the War of Independence in which Daka played Khalif, the commander of the Egyptian force. In doing so, he joined the club of actors who appeared in several Nesher films, which includes Gidi Gov, Joy Rieger and Adir Miller, among others. "Avi Nesher is a painter," says Daka. "There's a sentence he said before filming both films: 'I've seen the movie before.' He arrives on set knowing how the film looks in detail, and he comes to perform. He told us in rehearsals, friends, in filming not looking but implementing. It's a type of work that's very different from other directors. There are great directors who come very prepared, and in Israeli cinema they rehearse to warm up the scene to a certain point, and then let it happen on the set. With my father, it's not like that. At Avi's, they test the boundaries of the scene, straighten the text and come to the set to make the film. It's something very unique about him and it gives you a lot of confidence as a player. It's an experience to work with this person. He really knows what he wants, he's very precise, he's looking for the truth and he's totally cool."
More in Walla!
Avi Nesher is seventy years old: the best quotes of the director
See full article >
Actor Ala Daka in the film "Monkey Garden" directed by Avi Nesher / Ziv Berkowitz, courtesy of United King Films
Your role in Nesher's previous film is very different from your role in his current one. If in "Victory Picture" you appeared in a military and aggressive context, in "Monkey Garden" you play in a romantic context. Which role do you connect with more?
"My dad asked me if I thought I could do this role, and bring something completely different. He said to me: It's more you. Look, in the previous character, Khalif, there was something far away from me in this way, and I was moved by the image of the man whose head was in the army. Somewhere in every boy there is some lack of masculinity. I love movies about wars and I saw an opportunity here to fulfill some war fantasy. In the reality of the here and now, war is something that causes me so much pain and I find it hard to come to it clean. But my father was able to separate and disconnect it enough to make me connect to it, he took it back in time, and made me an Egyptian from the Muslim Brotherhood, so I was able to commit to it willingly and keep a weapon with pleasure somewhere. Even though at my base I'm just a pacifist and I don't like war."
There is a sense of great chemistry between you and the lovely Susanna Papian, and both of you are, in my opinion, the best actors in the film, with all due respect to the huge comedians who participated in the film.
"Susanna is a flamethrower! It has what I told you the actors should have - a bleeding heart hurts, from the most real places there is. She's a person who burns the screen, there's nothing you can do, and working with her was mesmerizing. She is amazing. Also because I have a partner in front of me that I trust and we have trust and mutual love, and she also has talent. I learned from her. My father as a director spoke through her character. Susanna was able to navigate, find herself in the role, play the script as written, and succeed tremendously in carrying the weight of the leading role in my father's film."
Avi Nesher, Ala Daka and Suzanna Papian filming the movie "Monkey Garden" / Iris Nesher
Daka, whose two sisters are studying in Italy, plays an Israeli director who comes from Italy to Israel. He learned his texts in Italian phonetically, and director Avi Nesher told us that because of his good musical ear, Italians on the set were sure he spoke Italian. "It was amazing for me, partly because my sisters study medicine in Italy and speak Italian fluently, they are already Italian, so I had the opportunity to practice it with them all the time," says Decca. I'd never played a foreign language before, and it was an experience. There is something about Italians that is a bit like the Arabs. They speak very much from the gut. But for Italians it's a little more symphonic. Italians are like Arabs with metronome. That's where I found the connection to it. Find some rhythm."
Monkey Garden was nominated for 11 Ophir Awards, including the Director's Award for Avi Nesher and Your Supporting Actor, but did not win a single award. And Nesher surprisingly never won one of the biggest awards at Ophir, even though Israeli audiences have loved his films for decades. Does that upset you?
"Academia is seasonal. What people like in the world right now is what they will love here with us. These are film lovers, kind of movie enthusiasts, and some of them are also friends. And unequivocally there are fashions. I didn't see Seven Blessings, the big winner. My father is a battle-hardened fox. My father is cypress. Fire, water, nothing moves him. He makes movie after movie after movie - and succeeds. To beat the world of cinema is inconceivable. He fought. How many directors do you know who survive in the world of cinema for 50-60 years? That doesn't happen. I'm upset for him that he didn't win. Also because I think the film is good and deserves this academic boost, it deserves a little push and appreciation from it. But I think it makes my father stronger. Avi Nesher is a phenomenon because he wins in the audience, with his feet. People I know went to see his film on Israeli Cinema Day and didn't go to any other film. The Israeli audience has a kind of sense of security when they go to my father's film, that things will be to their liking."
More in Walla!
War and Peace
See full article >
Ala Daka in the film "Victory Picture" directed by Avi Nesher / Courtesy of United King Films / Bleiberg Entertainment
In the version of the movie "Victory Picture" for Netflix, the poster was changed to put a picture of you alone. You also starred in "Fauda" and "HaMidrasha" which aired on Netflix. What kind of responses have you received abroad?
"It was surreal and surprising that they put my picture on the international version of Netflix. I got quite a few comments around the world about Fauda. I was in France a few months ago, at a screening of Red Sky, three young boys came and recognized me from Fauda. They were very enthusiastic. So I said, well, they're so cute, so I invited them to a screening of Red Sky, and they came to the screening that night. It was cool. When you're spotted abroad, it's a feeling that you don't know how to eat. When a local person tells you they know you, it makes you feel part of that place. I felt a little French. It's a feeling of comfort and a bit of disorientation. It's cooler to whoever is with you than to you. I'm currently at a level of familiarity that doesn't bother me or bother me. I'm not persecuted by fans. I am at a level of familiarity, also here in Israel, of appreciation, recognition and love for what I do."
By the way of advertising, there is a beautiful quote in the movie "Monkey Garden": "If there is anything worse than being hated - it is that you are ignored." How do you relate to this sentence?
"Of course I relate to that. Ignoring there is something jarring. It can burn. I have yet to experience hatred towards me, as an artist, from people who recognize me and address me on the street. It always comes with appreciation. Sometimes it's combined with some petty racism, but most often it's something tolerable. I didn't experience hatred. Maybe now that the show comes out, people will say angrily, 'Look at what he's trying to say between the lines!' Talkbacks I don't read, and there are quite a few. But these are not the same people who see you on the street. Even the person who writes a bad talkback about you, if he sees you on the street, he won't tell you the same things. He'll tell you, 'Great player,' and keep going. Experiencing ignorance is terrible. But you know what seems the worst to me? When you make a career, get high, then experience a plunge and disappear from consciousness. It can be very stressful for a player like me, who in the last eight or nine years has experienced a moderate and gradual increase in appreciation and recognition, not a quick leap up. I think players who experience a crazy rise and then a crazy drop can get depressed about it."
"אני 40 שנה מופיע, כבר קיבלתי את המתנה שלי. אם למות, אז עדיף על הבמה"
קטע מתוך ההצגה "דרכון מנגאלי", עליה חתום עלא דקה ככותב וכשחקן ראשי
קטע מתוך ההצגה "דרכון מנגאלי", עליה חתום עלא דקה ככותב וכשחקן ראשי, פסטיבל עכו 2023/סטילס: אלה ברק, וידאו: BR productions
השחקן הערבי-ישראלי המוערך עלא דקה נולד באוקטובר 1994 למשפחה ערבית-מוסלמית וגדל בבאר שבע. הוא למד בבית הספר החקלאי אשל הנשיא והתנדב לשנת שירות לאומי ב"תנועת תרבות". לאחר מכן למד משחק בבית ספר גודמן בנגב, ומשם המשיך לעבוד כשחקן בתיאטרון באר שבע. הוא בלט לראשונה בטלוויזיה בשנת 2012, כמתמודד בריאליטי "דה וייס". לאורך השנים שיחק בהפקות רבות, והיה מועמד שלוש פעמים בקטגוריית שחקן המשנה בטקס פרסי אופיר על תפקידו בסרטים - "גן קופים", "תמונת הניצחון" ו"הבן דוד". הוא גם שיחק בסרטים "מעבר להרים ולגבעות" ו"סבוי". בנוסף, שיחק בסדרות "תאג"ד", "המדרשה", "מונא", "פמת"א", "השוטר הטוב", "פאודה" בעונתה השלישית, "נאפס", "ירושלים", "בלאדי מורי", "אבירם כץ" ו"איסט סייד".
אמיר חורי, ששיחק לצדך ב"תמונת הניצחון" של נשר, לא המשיך לסרט הנוכחי שלו, וגם התבטא בריאיון בצורה די חריפה על התחושה שלו שהוא ערבי מחמד. מה חשבת על האמירה הזו? זו תחושה שמוכרת לך?
"תראה, זה שאני ערבי שמדבר עברית בלי מבטא, אז מראש הצופה הישראלי מסתכל עליי כמו מישהו ש'קיבל על עצמו את התרבות שלנו, זה אומר שהוא שותף'. אבל אני לא מחמד של אף אחד. אני אומר את דעתי כפי שהיא, לא מסתתר מאחורי שום דבר. אי אפשר יותר לא להגיד את הדעות. אני מכיר את המקום שאמיר בא ממנו. שנינו גדלנו בשני רקעים שונים. הוא שחקן מבריק בעיני, ואני מבין למה הוא אומר את זה".
עלא דקה בעונה השלישית של הסדרה "פאודה" של yes/נטי לוי
How difficult is it to be an Israeli Arab at this time, under an extreme right-wing government with Smotrich who refused to transfer funds to the Arab authorities and a national security minister who needs no elaboration on his opinion of Arabs, during whose tenure the number of victims in the sector is at a record high?
"What scares me the most is that the left will be able to find an equal valley with this type of people from the political map. In other words, I'm afraid that the left will say, 'In the end we have a common destiny, we established a state, let's find the Valley of Equal.' And this valley of equality will be a place I won't be able to be. I will never be able to find an equal valley with the extreme settler right and Kahanism, because their most basic perception is that I have no right to exist in this place. No matter how much they try to refine it and round it up and decorate it, that's their worldview. True, I'm in Bohemia, speak Hebrew without an accent, live in Tel Aviv and appear on TV. I may be at the top of the people scale. But they'll come to me too. Now the Palestinians in the territories are being beaten, they are the first to feel the change in policy. But it's only a matter of time before this policy reaches the Arabs in the north, and my parents have territories in the north, and until it reaches the Arabs who live in the center and are less close to the firing zone. What people don't understand is that it's not war, it's people who have been their way all their lives. Ultimately, the question is whether the Palestinians deserve to have a state. My answer is yes. They deserve a state. There is no other answer here. And I will not be part of anything that can prevent the existence of the state. The people of Israel, who waited two thousand years and fought tooth and nail to have a place, will deny another people's right to a state?!"
Despite the current political situation, Daka clarifies: "We must not despair. This is a battle over whether there will be a possibility of existence here or not. That's the question for me. I can't despair. Because my parents are here. As far as I'm concerned, I will express wherever I can my dissatisfaction with these people."
More in Walla!
The riot in Dizengoff is an unprecedented catastrophe. On TV as usual they were dragged into the procedure
See full article >
Ex, Ian Joel Pinkovich/Reuben Castro
Just as voter turnout in the Arab sector is low, very few Arabs are seen demonstrating against the regime coup, even though they are among the first to be harmed by it.
"You could call it despair. Crime today dominates Arab society in an unimaginable way. There is a sense of disconnection between the life I live here, in Tel Aviv, and life in every Arab village today. Life there is really in danger. I didn't grow up in an Arab village, but I think that in Arab villages and among mayors I know, there is a slow process of wanting to bring the Arab populations into the system, and to make them at least participate in the game. My parents and I always voted, but I grew up in Beersheba. There is a kind of attachment in the Arab public to resistance and dukas, without taking part, because they have no sense of control over their lives. A guy who lives in Kafr Qasim controls his life in the village, but outside the village he is considered by the Israeli public as a foreigner, hostile, dangerous and attractive to the security guards.
"The sense of alienation from Israeli society directed at this Arab makes him ask himself: Why should I take part in this game? After all, they see me as a danger. And I understand that voice. At the same time, I think that the way to make changes is a slow process, and we need to give this public its time to make the changes. Crime in Arab society is accelerating the convergence of Arab society around the understanding that we do not want to live in danger. The fact that you can go and shoot a candidate in an election and nothing will happen with it is delusional. It makes an Arab feel that he doesn't really have any protection for his life from the police, so why should he be a partner in the police and I protect him? Listen, this is a very complex reality. I personally take an active part in the protest, and it is essential to me. I will say my opinion, because I grew up in a Jewish city and because I live in Tel Aviv, I lived in a place where the police more or less care about the people. The crime in Netanya in the 1980s was cleaned up by the police. The government could quickly end crime in the Arab sector. I think they don't want to. It is convenient for certain factions in this government that crime in Arab society continue. I wouldn't be surprised even if there is cooperation between them."
More in Walla!
Gal Gadot in an interview with Walla! Culture: "With all the prestige and fame, in the end I clean hummus from the carpet"
See full article >
Ala Daka/Reuven Castro
Merav Michaeli, chairman of the Labor Party, refused to unite with Meretz before the elections. The Arab parties also refused to unite. Many seats were lost because of this. Thus, the left-wing and Arab parties are largely responsible for the rise of this right-wing government.
"The left has really fallen asleep. Meretz and Labor's views have blurred. The public suddenly became less pro-Palestinian and less pro-peace. Concepts of peace became vague and the public was sleepy, began to despair and beat itself up and say that there was nothing that could be done. The Arab public is itself in despair, and says that there has never been democracy here and there will never be democracy here, in the end it is a system that sees us as second-class citizens. This is a dominant statement in Arab society that I understand. At the same time, there is no room for despair here. Despair is dangerous. People don't realize how much worse it can be. The bright spot during this period is that is floating. The Kahanist voices that were in the government and were quiet got all the power into their hands in one fell swoop, and I think they themselves never imagined that they would reach this now. That's why they're now trying to get everything they wanted to achieve quickly. They do it quickly because suddenly you see and understand who these people are."
You have said in the interview several times that one must not despair of the situation in the country. How does this reconcile with your statement in an interview six months ago that you were considering the possibility of leaving the country?
"Great question. I'm still considering leaving. And the programs are becoming more practical. It makes my heart ache. I'm thinking of leaving for NYC. At the same time, I have an objection to leaving. Right now I'm not leaving. Right now I'm not only fighting to stay here, I also understand that my fountain of doing what I love is in the people here in Jaffa. If I go somewhere else, I'll get into such confusion."
More in Walla!
Emma Shaplan: "I look sweet and light but inside I'm dark and tough"
See full article >
Ala Daka/Reuven Castro
She has often been cast as an Arab who has a relationship or an affair with a Jewish woman. Isn't the Israeli industry capable of creating a film or series in which an Arab guy is having an affair with an Arab woman?
Kidding. "That's a very good question. There is a very great desire in the industry to deal with Jewish-Arab romantic relationships, they want Romeo and Juliet."
And in reality, all your friends until now have been Jewish. What is the psychological explanation for this?
"It's entirely by chance. To this day, I've dated women I've met. I live in the Jewish population, these are the women I meet. I'm less at the Haifa Berenger and the Haifa artists. I am from the south and grew up in a Jewish environment. It's not something I planned. But I have some desire to try the genre. In the end, my relationships ended because of things that weren't necessarily related to identity, but to things that had to do with partners. The separations weren't because I'm Arab and she's Jewish."
Today, Daka is not in a relationship. Deka's last partner was actress Ian Pinkovich, daughter of actor and director Ronnie Pinkovich, who three years ago chose to end his life by euthanasia in Switzerland after suffering from multiple sclerosis for 30 years. They met for the first time just two days after her father first informed her of his decision. "I introduced him to my dad, at the very end of his life," Ian told Walla! "I told my father, 'I'm dating someone and he's an Arab.' Dad said to me, 'Who is this? Who is it?' I told him his name was Alaa Daqa. And my father said: 'I heard about him, Rafi Niv told me about him, I heard he was talented.' I said, 'Yes, he's very talented.' Then my father said: 'I can't believe I won't be here to say that my daughter married an Arab!' He has already designated us."
I mention this story for a minute, and he says: "My parents also designated us, and encouraged us to move forward in the relationship. My father already wanted grandchildren. Then there started to be problems with the relationship, so I told him this and he said, 'Then bring a child.' He wants grandchildren, and he doesn't care how I bring them. My father wants to be a grandfather, and my mother wants to be a grandmother. They really wanted to, and saw that we had moved in together, which was something I hadn't done before, so they thought that's it, here he is, and they designated us too. Ian is a person who will always have a place in my heart, and I destined greatness for her in life. I see a great future for her. She's just a brilliant person. There is such a sharpness in this family that I haven't seen anywhere else, you could see a situation in such a sharp and humorous way."
For dessert: you were half an hour late for our interview meeting at the café because the light rail got stuck. With a name like yours, Ala Daqa, there is a lift here for diversionary guidance. What embarrasses you more: being late for a meeting - or encountering again the tedious pun on your name?
Kidding. "It's more embarrassing to be late for a meeting. I've been with that name since childhood, and sometimes I'm late. So yes, I'm Ala Daka and I'm late and it's lifting to the landings."
- More on the subject:
- Ala Daqa
- Avi Nesher
- Ian Pinkovich
- Acre Festival