José Padilha Interview: 7 Days In Entebbe

José Padilha’s 7 Days in Entebbe recounts the story of the Operation Thunderbolt and the hijacking/hostage situation that preceded it. Sitting down with Screen Rant, he discusses making the film, how he came to define the characters, and why it’s hard for middle eastern politicians to negotiate.

Screen Rant: I loved 7 days in Entebbe, I thought it was brilliant, it was a beautiful movie actually for being so grounded and realistic, I just thought some of those shots and the pacing of the movie was really really well done.

José Padilha: Well, thanks man, you know, we tried to look at this, to my work, I've always done things that involve military commandos and the documentary that I did that had an elite squad, the two Elite Squad movies and stuff, so I've been doing a lot of movies about that, featuring military people, police men, and so on . . . even Narcos, you know. And I thought this was interesting to me, but I got this script because it was actually a very famous military operation, maybe the most famous of all time, now created from a point of view that was not the military point of view. So, I suppose I was doing exactly the opposite that people would expect from a movie like this, if I was directing.

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha: At least thematically. . . And at the same time tried to keep, to keep the reality of it, all those other true threads of the story, cause the story really has three threads, it has the military thread, it has the political battles as well, and it has the relationships between the prostitutes and the, you know, the hijackers, we looked at the last two and the challenge was how do I create a base intention enough so it still played like a trailer, you know, that was the whole thing for me. How do I do a drama that's each like a trailer.

Screen Rant: Right, and I think that was what was so interesting to me because I was reading that. . . I mean, would you have made this film, because I know that there was a lot more recent information that came out about this 'Operation Thunderbolt" . . . Would you have made this film had that new information not came out?

José Padilha:Uh, no I wouldn't, the film is strongly supported by the work of Professor Saul David and he did a lot of research and one of the thing that the film shows . . . but really the book shows, I shouldn't claim something that was done by somebody else, the success of the operation was completely on the hostages being able to get Bose's help.

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha: They, by tempting that he was the weaker link, they managed to start to make him feel bad because he was, you know, he was a German, hijacking troops, so he was being a Nazi and theologically he was in a position of badness and so he found himself in a really tough situation, you know, Brigitte, the character played by Rosamund, felt for him, but just hard, he wouldn't even let anyone talk to her, but Bose was prone to argue and, you know, this is all it took because it changes the  official character.

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha: It's not that the soldiers were the only heroes here, the hostages were heroes too.

Screen Rant: Absolutely.

José Padilha: Yeah, and that perspective was only made clear with the recent work. Then I also, I myself, went to Tel Aviv and spoke to many of the soldiers who were there but also to many of the hostages, particularly Jacques Le Moine, who was the, you know, the flight engineer, and it was very good to talk to him because he confirmed what Saul had said, you know, like Bose had the chance to kill everybody and he didn't. And it's gonna be very strange, because it's very difficult to understand how a terrorist had done that, but he actually did it in real life.

Screen Rant: That's so interesting to me that this is told from that perspective though, because it's something that I wouldn't have imagined being . . . sympathizing with essentially a terrorist, but you kinda get into Bose's head a little bit, but you're right about also some of the flight crew being heroes.

José Padilha: Yes, they were really smart and they managed the situation really well and they got into the guys head, that's it.

Screen Rant: That was an amazing job, now I also read that there was a little incident about an actual hijacking that happened near Malta, where you guys shot, is that true?

José Padilha: Yeah, actually, we had wrapped the following day there were two weeks where there was a hijacking and then actually a plane crash.

Screen Rant: Oh wow.

José Padilha: Next to the Malta Airport, I suppose have extra airports, things happen next to airports, but yeah, you know, it's unfortunate that those things happened, but they did.

Screen Rant: So, the question is, why was this story important for you to tell?

José Padilha: I think it's important on two accounts for me, on one account, when you look at the behind the scenes, you know the political machinations that lead to 'what are we gonna do here?' Are we gonna negotiate, are we gonna try a desperate military operation? Then you see how it would be with pressure from Shimon Peres' politicalizing.

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha:Because it's very costly any politician to negotiate, as soon as you negotiate, you start losing votes and start losing standing in the community and Yitzhak Rabin took a gamble. I mean he had just been in a very tight election, for Prime Minister and he just couldn't back down into a corner, if he had negotiated, he might have lost his position as Prime Minister, so he basically went for it; and so, that relationship just straight proved something to his general about Israel and Palestine. It's very hard for an Israeli politician to negotiate because it [inaudible] (possibly something about backfiring) politically, Yitzhak Rabin may be the biggest proof of that because he was actually murdered by a radical right-wing person in Israel --

Screen Rant: You're right.

José Padilha: Exactly for negotiating the Oslo Agreements, on the other hand it's also true of the politicians, even though it's not the subject matter of this movie, Arafat, you know, had an amazing proposal from Ehud Barak at Camp David [inaudible] protocol and he just didn't negotiate and the agreement was amazing, after the meetings he said, all that Arafat would say is 'No' even though the proposal was good and the reason being is that if Arafat had said yes, he'd have been killed. Historically, for politicians in Palestine it's always been very difficult, so you see a dynamic, you know, you preach the right-wing prayers, so you get votes.

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha: And then you are bound by them. You can't maneuver anymore, and this is true for both Israelis and Palestine and that's why we are here, [inaudible] still terrorists.

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha: The word terrorist is, the way it's used nowadays, it's becoming a little bit of a taboo to look at terrorists. Not all terrorists are the same, you know, so for instance, they are all bad, bad for sure --

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha: But they are not all the same and there has to be some nuance if we want to understand the phenomenon, so, like Arja, the Palestinian Terrorist there, the leader of the Palestinians in the air--

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha: He was in the air because his family had been killed, his friends had lost their house, he had personal reasons to be there. He was ready to kill. That's different than Bose who was doing it for ideology.

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha: You know, so, it's possible to get into Bose's head but impossible to get into Arja's head, and it's even less possible to get into the heads of religious fanatics, like they have today, so there are different [types] of terrorists. There are many different things that fall under the same umbrella. . . and it's important for us to be able to, even though [inaudible], and it's bad to look at a terrorist and so forth, we have to be able to look at them to understand the differences in how one goes from being a ho-hum person to being a fanatic, you know, we don't understand the phenomena, it's very hard to deal with it.

Screen Rant: You're completely right. There's that great scene in there where he's explaining to Bose about how he's lost things and Bose hasn't, and I thought that captured very much what you're saying. Now just curious, that's a great point about analyzing what terrorists are, what do you want audiences to take away from this movie?

José Padilha: Well, on an overall, you could look at the terrorists in different ways. You can analyze them psychologically, right? And look at their motivations and where they're coming from.

Screen Rant: Right

José Padilha: And you're gonna find out in the history of mankind, you're gonna find out that people like Bose, were doing this for ideology, you're also going to find out people like Arja, were doing it because they have a personal history with the people [inaudible], you're also going to find, total fanatatics, like stuff you see in September 11th, and those are not exactly the same phenomena, but they are all bad, obviously. Now overall, what you see though is that terrorists is not always looking from a psychological, but looks from a practical perspective. The terrorists always, they undo their own ropes.

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha: You know, so we pose this as fear. He wants to beat Israelis, be the terrorist and make them look weak and he actually ends up forcing the Israeli military and makes them look really strong.

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha: And making it even harder for anybody in Israel to negotiate because after Entebbe, everybody though, you know, we can do this, we can do anything to beat the terrorists and wipe out the Palestinians.

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha: So, it's always from a pragmatic standpoint, regardless of the psychological differences, it's just plain stupid.

Screen Rant: Right, right. Now, that dance sequence, that was super, super compelling to me in the way it was kind of intercut with everything, just on a logistical standpoint, how long did that take to shoot and to get that choreography down?

José Padilha: Oh, we shot that in one day in Tel Aviv.

Screen Rant: Wow.

José Padilha: The choreography was already there, I wanted to shoot, I made a decision on how to shoot it, which was, I'm gonna do some wide shots with static cameras, the way people shoot dancing, but then I'm going to walk in the middle of the dance group with a handheld camera, which nobody does.

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha: And give it an energy that can intercut it with the action, you know, it's a two-pronged thing, one I thought I wanted to show something beautiful that was Israeli, that had nothing to do with war.

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha: So, that most of the time people relate Israeli culture to war culture and that's not true, it's a beautiful thing in Israel and on the other side, that piece is known and it was created by [inaudible] and it was a critique on radical Orthoxy’s and you see them stripping themselves of their Orthodox clothes and the one who doesn't, falling from the chair, and I thought it was a way to metaphorically challenge a little bit, that Orthodoxy is so positively Israeli.

Screen Rant: Right.

José Padilha: And so, it was a combination of the beauty and also the meaning of that piece.

MORE: Daniel Brühl Interview for 7 Days in Entebbe

Key Release Dates
  • 7 Days In Entebbe (2018) release date: Mar 16, 2018
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