Fresh from the edit suite in the final preparations on the film on President Arafat...some notes on the agony of editing from Price of Kings director, Richard Symons...
Price of Kings director Richard Symons and Director of Photography Jake Corbett film at Karameh, Jordan
They say it's like killing your baby.
The final stages of editing are a brutal thing. Often the sequence you love the most just doesn't work for the film as a whole, and in the end, the film is king. The most painful of all baby killings is where you have to choose between two good kids to save the film from being just a fraction too long.
With The Price of Kings: Yasser Arafat, "The Battle of Karameh", and the hijacking sequence/exploration of terrorism scenes went head to head. Terrorism won, Karameh sacrificed. Agonising. Both showed key elements of President Arafat's leadership but it felt like excising an exploration of terrorism would have been a more gaping omission.
Our interviewees explained Karameh was the key point where President Arafat turned his people from refugees into fighters - consolidating his power. Against the might of the Israeli Army (they'd just decimated their surrounding neighbours in no more than six days), President Arafat convinced his troops to stand firm and fight whilst other factions (George Habash's PFLP) felt it was bordering on suicide.
Perhaps outside of a democracy a suicidal confrontation is the best/only way of consolidating power. Yasser Arafat proved in no uncertain terms he was prepared to stake his own life alongside the lives of his men against a far superior force. Crucially, because he was able to show Karameh as a victory (Israel contests this) - the process fused any Fedayeen doubts and transformed them to loyalty. Arafat could see what they couldn't, so only he could lead them where they didn't think they could go.
After the battle of Karameh, Arafat's high led to hubris, a lack of discipline, and bad-behaviour in Jordan, culminating in what became known as Black September - both the civil war and the fearsome organisation responsible for numerous attacks on civilians. There was a fascinating flow to how events unfolded, and taking this tack would allow us to include in the film his escape from Jordan as witnessed and retold by Munib al Masri (sitting at Yasser Arafat's side as he bullshitted, blustered and charmed his way through roadblocks manned by the Jordanian troops he was escaping from).
It's easy to forget President Arafat was a revolutionary leader, a military man, for most of his time - and it's essential to take this on board, so we couldn't quite kill off our baby sequence and kept it for viewing as a DVD extra.