Both of the previous films in the platform series, Guava (2014) and Sham (2016), began with a thought about the place they were filmed – the location and the landscape and layers of histories there. A Day Becomes began with a thought about time, about the first light of dawn, when the sun’s rays have yet to reach the landscape. A time when sight begins to reveal things, but the details are not yet clear. The film explores the landscape in which it is set during the elusive moment of the first light, seeking to recognize it as a realm of possibilities, to put aside the determinative restrictions placed on the land before and let it appear in its openness to what is about to arrive. To explore this suggestion, the film was conceived and constructed through time and its dynamics in the specific moments of daybreak.
A film thought through time is contemplated differently than a film thought through space. The first concern is how the film’s time relates to the time of the ‘world’: how do twenty-five frames per second of film contain or present a second of time on the clock? If A Day Becomes were in ‘real’ time, the events of the film would have lasted a few minutes. But the film does not advance at the pace of the clock. In the film, the duration of one second on the clock lasts anywhere from a split-second to a long moment. While time in the film follows how night evolves into day, it merely captures how the look of the landscape changes in the first light of dawn. Although the amount of light on the landscape increases as night changes to day, it does not follow the duration and pace of time in the ‘world’. Instead, the film seeks to pursue the duration of Yousef's experience of time as it unfolds the conversations and encounters Yousef has with his friends, lovers, and family.
The film captures how night strives to approach day through Yousef’s experience of being in this time. It follows Yousef, lingering with him in a moment of change he experiences in the film: a change in time and a change in the landscape. The film’s timescale seeks to reflect Yousef’s sense of time and history: What are the socio-political possibilities for understanding a place, when addressed via personal time experiences in it? How does the conflicted landscape in which Yousef has lived change when perceived in the final moments he spends on the land as he once knew it, a place (in the film) on the brink of change?
The transition is that between night and day, but also between the place as Yousef knew it and the unknown he is about to enter. It confronts him with everything he knew before and everything he expects to come. The film’s main – and only – character, Yousef is seen and heard during physical and verbal encounters with the people we chose, as though they were there with him. The conversations with them are not memories or fantasies, but real-time performed experiences in the present of the film. The time structured in the film traces Yousef’s time-consciousness of the moment performed in the film, aiming to rebuild his subjective experience of time at dawn.
The film’s duration is constructed according to Yousef’s intense experience of dawn’s flowing present by a continual return to the moment captured in the film as audio and visual. We returned several times to the same place of shooting in the building on the border of Qunaytirah. We recorded and filmed during dawn to collect numerous materials that would be edited into the time flow of his experience in one single becoming of a day, and it was divided into four main categories.
The first were visual performative encounters, where each meeting was filmed in a separate room; Yousef’s recordings and verbal interactions, each in a separate room; a collection of audio of all ‘live’ things in and around the building, including the wind in the leaves and any animals we could find; and finally, visual records of Yousef moving in the corridors of the building at dawn.
Each scene of Yousef at dawn was based on a different encounter: with his father, his sister, his Jewish best friend from high school, his Jewish ex-wife, the first Palestinian/Arab woman he had sex with. In our preparation phase, each planned encounter was translated into a physical performative gesture developed from a specific memory. For his sister for example, this was a wedding they had been to during which she constantly hung on his arm. His complex reaction to that reflected his urge to hold and protect her, but also his desire to get rid of her – both for his own sake and for her own freedom. For Yousef, this moment distilled the essence of their relationship. Yousef used and handled the physicality of her hanging on his arm and his entangled reaction to her as the performative action for the scene. The gestures in each scene embodied Yousef’s memories in performative actions, and this physical interpretation brought his past to the present of the film.
Each scene was shot on a different day. Each physical confrontation – one for each scene – was filmed as an ongoing, live performance as night became day. The audio for each scene was recorded after shooting, on the same day and in the same location. Yousef's conversations were not scripted or rehearsed and their structure was spontaneous, but he was asked to approach each spoken encounter with all of his emotions and thoughts. Each take was led by a different thought or emotion; for example if an encounter involved regret, anger and compassion, three different conversations were recorded. Every recording was influenced and motivated by another mental and emotional base. He could thus speak fluidly and intuitively in the recordings, confronting the conversation each time from another starting point connected to it. This allowed the recordings to document all of Yousef’s possible layers of engagement in each scene. We ultimately recorded three to five conversations for each scene, and we also intensively recorded the surrounding sounds on the shooting days.