What’s the difference between the people living in Smokey Mountain, in this dumpsite and us? They are born there, and we are born in Paris, or Canada. I was born and raised in Paris and stayed there until I was 19, when I decided to move to Israel. I’m half Jewish, and at the time I was a little bit like ‘Lucky’ in the film, looking for my origins.
People ask, why did you make a movie in Smokey Mountain? Why do you make things complicated? I realized that I’m the kind of human being who has to be in a risky situation to feel alive – to feel that there is a purpose for living – and to produce art.
Off World is about someone trying to find who he is, to go deep into something to die and be born again. All of my movies are about dying and rebirth – it’s my main obsession. When I imagine Lucky, I imagine he has a sweet adoptive family. Yes, they give him everything they can, but he never really fit, because part of him is where he comes from. There is something there that he needs, but it’s buried.
When I visited Smokey Mountain I wanted to make a movie there because my instincts said to. At the beginning I told everyone that I could see the end. I have faith in the kind of films I want to make. We were working with all local people. The only people who were not Filipino were my DOP and myself. And besides the main actors, all the kids, all the other people, are from Smokey Mountain.
In my films, I’m always seeking for identity, to try and understand why things happen to people, and how they can build a future. It’s about finding your destiny, understanding where you come from, why you are here, and what you can do. I think it’s very universal.
Off World is not a perfect film. We don’t think we’re going to change the world. We don’t want to change the world. We are small. We are participating in the process. What we’ve done, we have tried with our talents and vision to give our definition of what we see, to participate in the process bringing awareness to the world.
Smokey Mountain is a mix of all the things everyone is concerned about – environmental issues, health problems, poverty, corruption, the rights of children. As an artist it’s my role and my obligation to participate, to use images to provide something for people to watch they might never hear about. And to be a reminder that humans are used to taking everything for granted, used to not seeing what they have, and used to complaining and asking for more, not realizing that we live in such a luxurious place. Where these people, who have none of these things, are not – it’s how you look at life.
I’m trying to showcase the ugliness, because we are all responsible for it, but also the beauty, because, these people of Smokey Mountain, we have something to learn from them.