Art Rises: Gazan Filmmakers Tarzan & Arab

Art Rises: Gazan film makers Tarzan & Arab
By Hulya Tugcu

The struggle for sincere art is present everywhere. On one side of the world, freedom of expression is wasted by the struggle for genuineness and soul. On the other side of the world, soul and  genuineness is dampened by freedom of expression and oppression. But one thing is for sure, when it’s real, when it’s sincere, when the message wanting to be conveyed is so strong it becomes a need – it pushes through any barrier.

Meet Tarzan & Arab – real names Ahmed and Mohammed Abu Nasser – Gazan artists and twin brothers – who recognize and say that “…art as a weapon is stronger than heavy artillery. And art is the language that is closest to our hearts.” Against all odds of artistic suppression by sanctions and occupation, cultural taboos, their own government, lack of resources, experience, funding and even electricity, these brothers have harnessed their passion and want to tell the Gazan narrative, use their creative disposition and express it through film.

First inspired and encouraged by their artist and cinema-loving father then later mentored by Gazan film maker Khalil Al Mozian, the duo studied fine arts and theatre at Al Aqsa University but cinema is their “one and only passion”. So the brothers first sparked this journey by combining their love for photography, posters and visual art with their passion for film and started to create mock cinema posters – starting by using the names of Israeli operations like Defensive Shield, Cast Lead and Autumn Clouds for their “war movie” sound.

Producing film posters before making any films represents the core spirit of the two, who have a dream to see themselves on posters and to invoke that dream in others. The “idea is you look at the poster and imagine the film, but there is no film.” To use the experience around them and tell it through the lens of cinematic artistry is at the core of their efforts.

The passion for cinema combined with their life experience in Gaza has seen the brothers use this theme first in their posters, and then through creating their first short film named Colourful Journey. Wanting to tell stories of the Gazans, their suffering and every day issues, Colourful Journey represents factional infighting. Both starring in the trailer, and leveraging their similar appearances to portray the two characters in the trailer as two opposing sides that “look the same, but want to kill each other.”

The struggle that is faced in Gaza is unexplainable by an outsider, but in terms of the struggle for art, culture and self-expression, the brothers hear the same report that “people here [in Gaza] don’t have time for art, they spend all their time looking for crumbs. They say “What use is art? Art will not give you bread.””

But despite this struggle, the brothers have harnessed their passion and are well on their way as successful, genuine film makers. Nominated for this years Cannes International Film Festival, for their short film Condom Lead (embed link:, a film parody of the 2008 Israeli siege named Operation Cast Lead, is about “a dream of the hope for intimacy and love in a brutal, divisive world.”  The film, although it took four years to evolve, was shot on a low-budget and in one day on location in Amman, Jordan.

When asked what advice the brothers would give to budding film makers, the response from Tarzan: “Don’t think too much about the places your film might reach. Just make your art the way you want. Art is no easy task. Be down to earth and have great ambitions, and you will get there.”

About Hulya Tugcu: Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Hulya has a background in Engineering and Project Management that is largely overshadowed by her passion for art & creativity. Currently venturing as a photojournalist for Illume Magazine and also as a blogger, photographer, aspiring graphic designer, artist and student.                           Follow Hulya on Twitter @rumi_nation