The Cage – Director Statement
‘The Cage’ takes place in fictional lands that are strongly inspired by Ashkelon, Israel (where I grew up) and Berlin, Germany (where I lived for a decade beginning my late twenties). I wanted to film it in east Asia as a way to resist both Israel and Germany’s processes of “art-washing” – the way these two governments legitimize themselves by enabling the production of critical films and political art in their territories. In particular, with Israel, I was cautious of the way the mere act of staging a fiction film in a place normalizes an oppressive regime and occupation.
I wasn’t a White European going to film in ‘exotic’ or ‘blank slate’ Asia. I was going as a Middle Eastern, exoticized daily myself (Iraqi/Iranian/Kurdish Jew born in Israel). I went east after going west for so long. The lands I went to ‘explore’ were South Korea and Taiwan – not backward places, but strong vibrant economies with rich cinematic histories. I went there to think about place and identity and make a nouveau-noir story dissecting myths of identity and the queer body.
These efforts of art-washing in Israel are often used to portray the Palestinians as ‘backward’ (homophobic for example) and to present the Israeli occupation as ‘forward’. I was familiar with it from the time I was touring with the last film I shot in Israel, in 2007. It was a queer film about a guy in Tel Aviv and it fit the image Israel was working hard to mold for itself. I was constantly receiving email invitations I politely ignored from Israeli consulates trying to ‘help me’ push my film’s distribution in the world because it helped them push the image of Israel they wanted to show the world.
But Europe has been ‘art-washing’ too in the last decades, covering up and subverting any potential criticism about its colonial, genocidal past and the lack of full reparations thereof.” (-Lior Shamriz)