Michael Winterbottom is no stranger to controversy. His new film, The Killer Inside Me, is just the latest of his works to get people riled up. And he’s not stopping now.
Talking to Winterbottom last week in West Hollywood, I found out that his next project is just as likely – if not moreso – to piss people off as his new Jim Thompson adaptation. The film is The Promised Land, and it’s about the battle against Jewish terrorists in Palestine in the 1930s. You can see already where this would get people on edge.
“It’s set in the 1930s and it’s about two British police chasing Abraham Stern, who is one of the leaders of one of the underground groups in Israel… Palestine, as it was at the time. It’s a really exciting period. A lot of people don’t know how involved Britain was in the formation of Israel. It has parallels to what’s going on in Israel today but also to Afghanistan and Iraq in the sense that the British are there sort of policing it. Not really being political and sometimes favoring one side over the other – sometimes being seen as the Jewish people as favoring the Arabs, sometimes seen by the Arabs as favoring the Jewish people.
“Then we discovered this story, this real story, about these guys in their 20s who were running anti-terrorist division for the British/Palestine police, chasing Stern. They captured him literally two days before the beginning of the Second World War. They were all released on the understanding that they would no longer fight the British, but Stern didn’t agree with that and wanted to keep on fighting the British. It became a cat and mouse chase between the police and Stern. In the end the two British police caught up with him and assassinated him, and one of the police was shot.”
I had to ask him: “Do you think this will piss people off?”
He smiled. “Probably,” he said cheerfully. But he explained that pissing people off wasn’t the end result he was after, just what happens along the way. “Films, books, plays – part of it is making people see things different ways, and part of that is provoking people.”
Look for the entirety of my interview with Winterbottom soon.