Tarzan & Arab Nasser
Updated on 19/11/2021
When twin brothers Ahmed and Mohammed Abu were born in 1988, the last cinemas in Gaza had been closed for a year under pressure from local fundamentalists. They had to wait until they were 20 to see a film in the cinema, on a trip to the United States. Sons of a school headmaster and a housewife with 7 children to support, the pair left the family flat at 13 in search of independence. They took odd jobs and studied fine arts at el-Aqsa University, before turning to filmmaking under the names Tarzan and Arab Nasser.
Seeking freedom from oppression in their own country, the anti establishment twins fled Gaza to escape Islamists who threatened them with death. Having presented the short film Condom Lead at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, they were again invited to bear witness to the violence in their country with their first feature film Dégradé two years later. But it is with Gaza mon amour, a falsely platonic romance, that they have become the icons of a liberated cinema, playing by their own rules.
The work of the Nasser brothers is driven by a single thread: breaking taboos. They refuse to portray the already high-profile conflict between Palestine and Israel head-on, preferring to focus on the consequences of war on everyday life. In each of their films, they show a population taken hostage. From the difficulty of making love in wartime in Condom Lead (2013) to the redefinition of masculinity in Gaza mon amour (2021) and the diversion of Israeli offensives in Gaza in the satirical series Gazawood (2010), the filmmakers have reinvented Palestinian cinema and brought it back to life.
Avant-garde and charismatic, the twins founded the Made in Palestine Project collective in 2011 with the designer Rashid Abdelhamid. This initiative seeks to bring together young artists who share an alternative vision of their native country by combining different media such as video, photography or visual arts.
With their ambitious and satirical creations, the Nasser twins quickly established themselves as fascinating and daring artists. They received the Young Artist of the Year award for their creation Gazawood in 2010. In this series of posters, they compared the Israeli military offensives in Gaza to big Hollywood productions and attracted the wrath of the government. With a spell in jail, their legend had begun to write itself. Exiled to Jordan and then to Paris, the directors have a love-hate relationship with their country.
When their short film Condom Lead was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013, Tarzan and Arab Nasser brought Palestine its first ever selection on the Croisette. Although they returned to present their claustrophobic work Dégradé at Critics' Week in 2015, it was not until 2021 that the brothers truly found international recognition with Gaza mon amour. Warmly received at the prestigious Toronto and Venice Film Festivals, this film revives the myth of the Apollo of Gaza with trivial humour.
The twin brothers are born on 2 October 1988 in Gaza
They make their first short film Colorful Journey
Their short film Condom Lead is the first Palestinian film to be shown in the Official Competition at the Cannes Film Festival
They make their first feature film, Dégradé
Gaza mon amour is presented at the Venice International Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival
Laureates of the Institut français residency program at the Cité internationale des arts, Tarzan & Arab Nasser completed their residency in Paris in 2021.
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