Women in Sink

Filmmaker Q&A with Director Iris Zaki

Is there a particular documentary film or filmmaker that had a major influence on your career?

Chronicle of a Summer


What motivated you to make this film?

Although born and raised in Haifa, Israel, as a Jew, I don’t remember ever interacting with its Arab citizens. Haifa may be a proudly mixed city, though in Israel Jews and Arabs exist in two parallel circles, like different classes: they live in different neighborhoods and attend different educational systems. Many films are made about the Israeli conflict and the occupation, I felt I wanted to scrutinise a quiet front, one which symbolises coexistence and peacefulness, and decided to shoot in Haifa.


Please tell us what camera(s) you shot with primarily – and any other special equipment that you used and why you used it.

Cannon c100


Please tell us about any special styles or techniques that you used during the production of your film to help tell your story.

I shot the film using my Abandoned Camera technique: of having a fixed camera, with no camera operator or other crew members on set. The idea is to keep the interaction with the subjects as intimate and casual as possible, and reduce the awareness of being documented.

Another core element of this method is to immerse myself into my subjected community by working in a local business, serving the community members who happen to be in the place and filming our conversations. By doing so, I aim to capture a natural dynamic, that is more casual than an interview, and to get exposed to different voices from the society, which helps me to expose my audience to a non-monolithic, multi-vocal representation of the community.


How did your story evolve from day one, to the very last day in post? Is your story what you thought it would be?

I sought a place where I would be able to build an intimacy with the subjects, and the decision to work for a hairdresser seemed perfect because of the physical connection with the women and the traffic of clientele that such a place offers. I decided that for this one summer I will become a hair-washer and film conversations in a sink!

Location scouting was not an easy task, as I had to convince a beauty salon not only to let me shoot but also to kind of hire me. I got to know Fifi’s salon through my mom’s neighbor, a Muslim Arab who is a hairdresser herself, though works in a Jewish neighborhood. She told me that Fifi’s – an established little salon in Wadi Nisnas (an Arab neighbourhood, downtown) – would be ideal for my purpose, and she couldn’t have been more right. Once I entered the place I felt a great energy and knew that I have to shoot in there. Gladly, the owners of the salon, Fifi (Frial) and Nawal – who also appear in my film – were extremely sweet and welcoming, and said ‘yes’ right away. As a hair-washer, I was rather slow and clueless at first, and if I’m being honest – I had really slowed things down (hair washing is much harder than it seems!). I have improved quite fast, though, and after a short while the owners have realised that I was not only there to make the film but also to work hard – wash the floor, clean the toilet, etc. They started to trust me more… to the extent that they have actually become some sort of production assistants: they have been the ones convincing women to be filmed for the project.

Every day I was shampooing and filming many women – Arabs and Jews, chatting with them about their day, about racism in Israel, about marriage and having kids.


Please describe the most rewarding experience you had while making this film. 

It was fascinating and exciting to meet so many women and have these unique moments of bond and intimacy. Both the owners and the customers, who have been coming to the hair salon for years, really cared about my project. I don’t think that I’ve ever been treated this way in my life. There was so much warmth in this little place, so much love and care. It felt like being in a womb. ‬


What advice can you give to other impact filmmakers?

Explore only issues that are close to your heart and that you’re passionate about. If it doesn’t touch you, it won’t touch your viewers. Make films which speak in your voice. Keep it simple…


What’s your favorite part about the filmmaking process and why?

Meeting new people, interacting with them and having the chance to explore each other’s lives. It both allows me to makes me to learn about the world we live in, which is very different than the stereotypical ways it is portrayed by media and politics, and – it makes me think about myself, my identity and desires.


What’s the one item you always take with you when working out in the field and why? 

My heart. It’s important to have an open heart on set.


Please share a personal story about your experience making this film.

Right from the beginning of the shooting I realized that in order to make this film happen I would have to gain weight. At first, keeping quite a strict, healthy diet, I tried to have my breakfast of a rye bread and avocado sandwich at home before coming to work, and refused politely the Arab pastries that the owners bring several times a day from a little bakery two blocks away. This was very uncool to them and lasted exactly two days. They didn’t take no for an answer and in order for me to really become a part of the staff I had to eat. Food plays a great part at the hair salon, and in the Arab culture. There are always snacks and cookies on the counter for customers and staff to enjoy, and sometimes neighbors who stop by to say hello bring coffee, cakes or fresh hummus for everyone to share.


What do you want audiences to take away from your film?

That wherever there are people there is a complexity, that is beyond the black and white. A lot of grey. That we shouldn’t base our agendas only politics, but rather go and interact with people, then we will find out that we’re all quite the same.


Please list key points that should be covered in a post-screening discussion:

The filmmaking technique

Community representation



Please provide any additional resources (websites, links to additional videos, forms, articles, etc.):







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