A rather belated final blog update from Price of Kings co-director Richard Symons, reflecting on the team's final screening on their Middle East tour:
After Tuesday night's Ramallah high, something had to give.
We put it down to bad vibes from the Allenby Bridge border crossing, but by the time we arrived in Amman, Jo was wheelchair-bound with her leg in a plaster cast.
At Allenby, Palestinians are separated out onto segregated busses, I'm guessing that this is so if anything goes down at the Israeli checkpoint it's away from the eyes of international travellers. In any case, after a bad fall off our bus we found ourselves ambulancing Jo to the local hospital's x-ray unit and it would be another couple of hours before we were back en route.
The last time we were in Jordan was to shoot Bassam Abu Sharif and the village of Karameh for the Arafat film. Bassam was Time magazine 1970's "Face of Terror" and the man who recruited/trained "Carlos the Jackal" We'd spent a day interviewing him and he confirmed he was coming to tonight's screening in the amphitheatre of the Royal Film Commission.
Bassam had quite literally put his life on the line more than once for both Arafat and the Palestinian struggle. Having spent the day with him was an education in itself and provided way more insight than we could include in the finished film [you can see exclusive footage here] We'd also discovered he wasn't a man who suffered fools gladly. No-nonsense, no bullshit. This would be the first time he'd see the film.
Jordan's ties with Arafat are deep and divided in opinion on his leadership. Originally we'd had two long sequences in the film that had to be cut [some of this is in the extras online and DVD] - the battle of El Karameh and Black September (in particular his escape with Munib al Masri when this went down). Did this mean we'd be seen as having written them out of his history ? We could only hope they'd understand 70 years of history isn't easily packed into the length of a film.
The screening went well - hard not to when the setting was so extraordinary but there was an ominous silence for the credits and our entrance to the Q&A (despite Jo on crutches) which contrasted strongly with the previous night in Ramallah.
It's always going to be tough to play a film to the people who've lived through it's events and therefore fuse what they've experienced first hand with what they've been told by the media at the time. For example, one audience member claimed Clinton/Washington knew about the Oslo negotiations saying, "you know nothing", effectively refusing to accept the testimony of the actual negotiators who in the film said it was secret.
I scanned the audience and Bassam's seat was empty.
After about 20 minutes some of the audience started coming round whilst others who had previously kept quiet began defending the film and things started to even out a little - either way, it was a stark reminder that not only were we dealing with extremely sensitive and controversial subject matter, but also that opinions held on Arafat, were held passionately.
We tried to call Bassam afterwards, figuring we may as well face the music but couldn't get through...
The worry stayed with us till the next morning. He got in touch via email - no explanation as to why he'd left in the Q&A but all was good... he'd liked the film. No time for relief - just a dash to the gate and homewards bound.