06/24/2013 08:17 am ET Updated Aug 24, 2013

Interview: Ziad Doueiri Talks About The Attack

A glance at Ziad Doueiri's page on the Internet Movie Database makes it look as though the writer-director has been following the Terrence Malick career model: The Attack, his new film which opened in limited release 6/21/13, is only his second film credit since his film West Beirut in 1998, along with directing an episode of the short-lived Showtime series Sleeper Cell.

Sitting in a midtown Manhattan conference room, the shaggy-haired Doueiri laughs when this is pointed out and says there's no big secret about what he's been doing.

"I was being unemployed and lazy," he cracks. "Actually, I've been writing different projects. But I'm a slow writer. I wasn't trained as a writer-director. And the projects I write are difficult to finish."

Case in point: The Attack, which has been building buzz on the film festival circuit since its debut last September in Telluride. Based on a novel by Yasmina Khadra, the film took Doueiri six years to bring to the screen, much of it spent trying to adapt the novel with collaborator Joelle Touma, his wife, and an almost equal period trying to find the money to film in Israel and Palestinian territories.

"After we wrote the first draft, it was turned down," Doueiri says. "I was discouraged. In fact, there was a period from 2007-2011 that I thought I might not pursue film as my career. It was too difficult."

Part of the challenge was adapting a novel written almost entirely as an interior monologue.

"The book has so many scenes in which the protagonist is talking - about 80 percent," Doueiri says. "When we sat down to write it, we thought, 'How do we do it without all the great material that lets you get inside?'

This interview continues on my website.