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I wanted
the film to
be a mixture
of styles,
bringing to
life hummus
on screen for
an audience,
so they would
leave the
cinema hungry
for more

- Trevor Graham -


Born Melbourne: 9th September 1954

Dr Trevor Graham has worked as a writer, producer and director of documentary in the Australian industry for almost 30 years. His documentaries have been screened and broadcast nationally and around the world. Graham has made numerous co-productions and commissioned works for Channel 4 and the BBC (Britain), WGBH (America), ARTE (France/Germany), AVRO (Netherlands), SBS and ABC TV (Australia). From 2005 to 2008 Graham was a documentary Commissioning Editor for at SBS TV.

In 1997 Graham wrote and directed Mabo Life of an Island Man, a feature documentary about Eddie Koiki Mabo�s personal struggle for recognition of his native title rights to his home on Murray Island in the Torres Strait. The film won the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Documentary, was nominated for a Logie and won both the prestigious NSW Premier�s History Award and the NSW Premier�s Award for Best Screenplay. The film was also released theatrically in all capital cities. It screened on Arte (France/Germany) during the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

In 1999 Graham collaborated with legendary Australian producer Patricia Lovell and directed, the feature doc, Tosca � a Tale of Love and Torture, for Film Australia and the ABC. The feature screened at the Sydney and Melbourne film festivals won a Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival and screened in 2001 at the famed Grauman�s Egyptian Theatre (Hollywood) in the American Cinematheque�s Down Under Wonders Film Series.

Graham�s most recent work, Make Hummus Not War, was officially selected for the 63rd Berlinale (screened to a sellout audience), San Sebastian International Film Festival and numerous other international film festivals, It had its World Premiere at MIFF 2012, a theatrical release in Melbourne at the Nova and Classic cinemas and won a Golden Kapok Award at the Guangzhou International Documentary Festival 2012. It will screen on SBS TV prime time 2014.




The Film Reporter interviewed  Trevor Graham regarding his film "Making Hummus Not War"

Q: What was your overall role?

Writer, co-producer & director. The original idea was mine too.

Q: Did you always want to be in the film Industry?
From the age of 16 I became very interested in films particularly European cinema. However I didn�t study film and didn�t commence making my first film until I was 29

Q: Tell us how MHNW evolved.
Make Hummus Not War started in October 2008 when I read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald by Jerusalem correspondent Jason Koutsoukis about the importance of hummus in Israel.
I began surfing the internet and I discovered the �Hummus War� the intense rivalry between Israel and Lebanon over the origins of hummus. It then took me nearly another year to research and write the original treatment and another 6 months to raise the finance, followed by another 6 months of production and post production.

Q: Did you have any unusual difficulties during filming?
A funny thing happened on the way to Nablus, in the West Bank.
I went to Nablus with the husband of my Palestinian fixer. Khadar knows Nablus well and is a bit of an expert on everything Nablian. Nice guy too. We had some great discussions on the way about identity, hummus and politics.
Anyway Nablus is in Area C security zone in the Occupied West Bank. IE you need special permission to go there and or an Israeli GPO press card which I didn�t have. So we get to the security check point this morning and the soldier who checks the car won�t let me through. Khader has a GPO card, so he is fine. But my international journalist�s ID card is not enough. Khader argues the point, �He�s an Australian, he has a press card let him through. I have a GPO card, so what�s the difference?� Absolutely no go with the soldier. I thought we were sunk. There goes the trip to the tahina factory I�d lined up months ago. Nablus produces the best tahina in the world. But Khader keeps on insisting, so much so, that another soldier with higher rank comes over to ask what is going on. Khader explains the situation. And then to make light of it all he says, �This guy is an Australian film director, he�s making a film called, Make Hummus Not War�. At which point the soldiers start pissing themselves and instantly become very friendly. I ask them, �Do you like your hummus?� And they waved us through with a smile and the advice, �Well make sure you make hummus not war!� I wish I�d filmed it as it was so funny. I started using the title much more in the filming process, because it got good reactions.

Q: Will winning awards help promote the film? How so?
Yes screenings at festivals and winning awards does help to raise the profile of the film in the international festival market.

Q: How long did it take to make the film?
The production and post production took 6 months. But this was after 1years of research and writing and 6 months o raising finance.

Q: Where were the locations?
Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, UK, USA , Australia

Q: To what audience is MHNW suited?
Festivals and cinema, but there is a TV version too. A briad audience interested in politics, history and food, particularly regarding the Middle East.

Q: Any bites yet from distributors?
Yes the feature length and TV version are both distributed internationally (Off the Fence) and nationally in Australia (Antidote Films). They were both part of the finance package.

Q: What was it like working with various sources? How did you go about choosing who to interview?
I like working in different cultures and languages apart from my own. I selected interviewees after doing intensive research. I was looking for characters with a sense of humor and who were passionate about hummus.

Q: What has the feedback been so far?
Very good, particularly with audiences in Europe. But interestingly the film has won awards in China and Indonesia. I�m very appreciative of the Indonesian awards. I think it�s very special that a film ultimately about Middle East peace has won a Gold Peace Award from a festival in the largest Muslim country in the world. I think this very significant and I�m very happy about it. It shows a strong international perspective o the part of the festival judges.

Q: Are you working on any new projects?
Yes several for Australian TV about religious pilgrimages like the pilgrimage to The Hajj.

Q: Tell us about your own background. Where you were born? Where did you study film? What was your first movie? What was your previous job? Are you a full-time filmmaker?
I was born in Melbourne Australia. I did not go to film school but attended a leading Australian art school. Ironically I ended up teaching at the national film school in Australia as the Head of Documentary. My first film was a documentary called Red Matildas a film about 3 Australian women who were communists in the 1930s in Australia and one of them went to fight in the Spanish Civil War. I am currently a fulltime producer/director, but I have worked for SBS TV in Australia, the ABC and at the national film school, AFTRS.

Q: what was your first award? And how did you feel at that time?
My first award was for Red Matildas at the Melbourne International Film Festival in 1985. It was the prize of Best Australian film at MIFF and an honor to receive it for our first film.

Q: What was the best part of the project?
Eating the hummus at all the places we filmed at. Meting the hummus makers of al nationalities and meeting Middle East food writer extraordinaire, Claudia Roden.

Q: What was the most challenging?
Working on a very tight schedule that covered the USA, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and the UK.

Q: Are you pleased with the overall outcome?
Yes particularly the film�s success at festivals and their audiences. Everywhere it has screened to sell out audiences.

Q: What are your hopes and dreams for the film?
I want to create a Make Hummus Not War, hummus label that sells in supermarkets around the world. I�m open to offers!

Q: What makes you a filmmaker?
The need to communicate. I like the magic of cinema and storytelling, captivating audiences, hopefully.

Q: Why is this subject important to you?
I like the politics, history & food angle. And there is a strong personal angle too, originally to do with my father and family life that is evident in the film. This personal angle was s strong motivation to make the film. It�s a tasty subject.

Q: Does this film send the message you intended?
Yes, make hummus not war! Hummus and chickpeas are a symbol of our common humanity. I wanted this movie to say �We have more in common than divides us�

Q: Do most people just turn a blind eye when they hear of these issues?
I think so. Because we constantly hear bad news about the conflict between, Israelis, Palestinians and Lebanese. But this film has a different message.

Q: Why the title?
The title is obviously a derivative of Make Love Not War, an international peace slogan from the Vietnam War. Being an old anti war activist I have always liked that slogan and I thought Make Humus Not War was a great and funny adaptation of it. I wanted a catchy title that was humorous.

Q: Advice to others who might like to follow in your footsteps?
Documentaries can be too serious. Funny approaches to serious subjects can help audiences with difficult subjects.

Q: is there anything in the past happened to you, that make you make this movie? If, yes, what is this?
Kitchens are more than just a place for preparing and consuming food. They are the heart of the home, and the restaurant, a place of nourishment, sharing and enjoyment for the body and soul. Make Hummus Not War is a call to action, an acknowledgement of our common humanity - our basic need to eat and enjoy life, a hope for peace.

Q: Is this a film that young people, college or high school students could benefit from?
Yes very much so. I have attached our study guide for Australian schools (please feel free to quote from the Study Guide). The film has made its way into a university course in the USA, in peace studies.

Q: Do you personally know anyone who inspires the movie?

Q: Has the film won any other awards?
Yes a Golden Kapok Award at Guangzhou International Documentary Festival 2012

Q: Anything new to date on the film?
The film screens at the San Sebastian International Film Festival in September. This is the most renowned festival in the Spanish speaking world.

Q: Unique stories during the making of the film?
Already outlined the best story.

Q: what sacrifices did you make to become a filmmaker?
Not really any. It�s a rewarding if often uncertain career. You ned to learn to live with uncertainty particularly about founding.

Q: How do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
Well I hope to continue making films like MHNW. But raising money, no matter how many awards you win or how many successful films you have made is always a crazy business. I always say it a miracle that any film gets financed and made.

Other information: www.makehummusnotwar.com

Related links:

  • Cheryl Halpern: The Woman Fighter

  • Yunus Shahul: The Future Assassin

  • Joon Bai: Labor of Love

  • Iara Lee: The Suffering Grasses

  • Ilchi Lee: The Spiritualist


    � The Film Reporter 2013-2015