Bonboné – 5 Questions for Film Director Rakan Mayasi

Image of Saleh Bakri from short film "Bonbone"

Won Best Short Film Award at the 2018 Moscow International Film Festival

1. What's the reality behind this story?

Bonboné tackles the phenomenon of Palestinian sperm smuggling out of Israeli jails. It is pretty real. Palestinian prisoners who are serving time in Israeli jails are not allowed conjugal visits, which means they are not allowed to have any physical interaction with their loved ones, let alone sexual intercourse. In order to conceive, they resorted to this beautiful method in which creativity, love for life and defiance all come together.

The first recorded birth out of sperm that was smuggled was in the year 2012 and to this day there are more than 50 babies born through smuggled semen.


2. What's your biggest struggle as a writer/director and how are you overcoming it?

I have written and directed a number of short films in the last ten years after I finished film school and did film workshops, and now I am embarking on a new journey, making my first feature film. Apart from the difficult reality of actually making a film and getting a budget, which is always a lengthy process, I believe the real struggle in my case is the difficult reality of my identity. I strongly believe that universal ideas are only universal or topical because they come from a certain space. In my case, I am discovering my space, as I belong to the Palestinians in Diaspora. I try to defy this distance, to connect with that space and I look for it inside of me. I also find it interesting because I am still discovering my Palestine. I discover it in films, in photographs, in poetry, in music, and through stories.


3. What elements make up the perfect script?

I do not believe in perfection. I actually think the idea of perfection boring because imperfections take us closer to the humanity in it. I consider perfection to be only useful as a search or desire. However, I do believe a number of elements are needed to make a good script.

In short films, the medium forces us to make certain decisions that are not needed in feature-length formats. One should say what they want in a very short time. I believe a short film script should be witty, whether plot or character oriented, the script should be written in a way where it goes against our expectation as an audience. This way, the narrative would unfold with surprise, and you get the audience hooked.

I also strongly believe that characters should be three-dimensional unless of course, the film does not demand that. But to make an audience relate and empathize with the character and the situations, these characters must be written in a way where they seize the viewers.

I like witty dialogue, that is indeed uninformative and minimal. I generally do not like to have a lit of dialogues - be it in short or long formats, as I believe that Cinema is essentially a visual art.


4. What has been audiences reaction to this film, and have they been what you were hoping for?

The general reaction is positive and I've noticed that most of the public is surprised the moment they know that some Palestinian couples smuggle sperm to conceive. I know that this phenomenon is not public knowledge but I still enjoy the reaction of the audience once they get through the film. I surely did receive interesting questions and the film did open debates in a number of festival screenings. The very aim of the film is to raise questions and to try to transcend beyond reality.


5. What are you hoping to see more of from your fellow filmmakers?

I always like to watch films that capture me from beginning to end, films with compelling characters and strong plots, with twisted narratives. I hope to see films that deconstruct stereotypes in this region. I do not like recycled ideas, that could be dubbed as coverage. I like innovative ideas that have the potential to go beyond what the collective is used to.

Watch Bonboné on Amazon