Interviewer: Dan Geva

When theoreticians talk about ethics they often mean "worldview." When you're immersed in your work as a film director is the concept of ethics present in your mind?

I think it's always there by virtue of the nature of the work. That is, every time you choose to make a film about a particular object or subject a sort of inner debate takes place, as well as an external one with the object itself, with the producer, with the person who commissioned it, and every one of these debates has ethical implications.

What does the word "ethics" mean to you?

Whether it's ethical to do what I'm doing. It's almost the first consideration one wrestles with. For me it's something, I think, that I work out very quickly. After that comes a more complicated debate between the fact that I have a powerful need for the film to come out much, much better and the fact that I have to bend reality in order to make the film better. Then it becomes an ethical debate: How much force do I use and what boundaries do I set for myself in order to do it? I don't mind if there's a big discrepancy as long as I don't feel I've wronged the character, but that boundary is flexible, too. And the third thing that happens is, the technologies change, the language changes, and these raise new ethical questions all the time. For example, the latest ethical question we've been wrestling with is whether to pay our interviewees. Is it right or wrong? Either way, this has clearly "leaked" from reality TV into documentary film.

How do you answer that question? Because there are instances where people who are filmed get paid.

Yes. But it didn't used to be that way. It used to be out of the question. Until three or four years ago it wasn't even up for discussion. You make the film, and if you have to, you find a non-monetary way to compensate. For instance, we flew Nikolai (The Tale of Nikolai & The Law of Return, 2008) and his family to Romania for shooting, we paid for everything because it was part of the film – he had to fly to Romania – but it was also a sort of family vacation. You find a way that isn't a wage and you don't call it a wage or a salary. Because if you did pay him a salary it would raise an ethical issue in the sense that he's working for you; if he's working for you it's a different story. First of all, he'll want to appease you, he'll want to understand what you want and then give it to you as a good employee should. On the other hand, if he isn't a good employee, that gives you the moral right to interact with him, to say, "Buddy, I need you to cry here…" "You can't spend twenty shooting days with me without shedding a single tear."

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Is that the point where a real person living his life turns into an actor? When he gets paid to act? When acting becomes his job?

Right. That's clearly an ethical question. The other argument is that often, due to the nature of our work, you work with underprivileged people, underprivileged both economically and ethically. These are people whose problem justifies the story. And since this problem manifests most clearly in the economic sense, ultimately, the documentary film is a colonialist act. It's a Western way of looking at it. In the end, the person who goes to the cocktail parties, eats the food and makes the money is the director. The production team… Once again, the West is the merchant, but in this case instead of Africa's crops the merchandise is Africa's problems.

What's your position on payment?

It's unethical to pay money. But let's put it bluntly: often, what people have to sell is their misery. But that isn't necessarily bad. It's especially complicated for me because I often use methods of screenplay production. Not "You know something," "This is what you're doing today," "I don't want to get in the way of your schedule," "I'm coming with you, and if this is what you're doing, even if it's boring for three hours I'll stay with you in that boring place just in case there's an encounter in the evening that might interest me." I don't work that way. I tell the person: "Okay, since we're putting the shooting day together, let's do it the best we can. Let's make it as dramatic as possible and as right for the film as possible." He'll often miss a day of work, literally. Nikolai, for instance, had to miss a week of work in order to film in Romania.

So as far as you're concerned, what justifies payment is that this is the merchandise he has to offer and he gives of his time so that you can turn it into a film, so it's all right to compensate him for it?

Yes. As long as you as the director and he as the participant don't form an employer-employee relationship. The only time I got this wrong was when someone agreed to be filmed in order to get the money. It happened once in the making of the series No Shame (2011). The daughter of scientist parents, a smart girl who got pregnant and wanted to keep the baby against her parents' wishes. She leaves home as a result of the fight with her parents. She moves in with the guy who got her pregnant and she's definitely in some kind of distress – she's only 17. She's going out with a 30-year-old man. But she needed the money. She's pregnant. She didn't want to be filmed, she wanted the money. That put us both in an untenable situation because I had to come up with a story that she didn't want to give me, and the producers paid her, and the result was a conflict between me and my character regarding the story I wanted to tell. For instance, she absolutely refused to confront her parents about what happened. As far as she was concerned the problem was solved, or, actually, solved by not being solved. The producers, in order to tell the story, say: "No way, we have to bring her and her parents together." So they got them together. At the first meeting she refused to talk, she just sat there and didn't say a word. Then you say, "Okay…" "But sweetheart…" and then you get into an unhealthy dialogue based on "I paid you for this." And that mustn't happen. By the way, when you tell your protagonist, "I paid you to get the tears flowing, so you'd better meet with your parents and tell them things you never meant to tell them," that's problematic. Once again, I don't mind persuading my character to do that. But if he doesn't want to, he doesn't want to. I can't hold the money against him. In that instance I had no choice, the forces involved were too strong.

You're describing an interesting situation of pressure from both directions. As you described it, you spoke of yourself in first person as "I, the director" and, you may have noticed, you also spoke of the producers as an extension of yourself.

Yes, in the sense of a system that has to come up with screen-minutes.

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And this turns you into a sort of laborer, like the person being filmed?

Yes, yes, a laborer. Totally. A laborer in the sense that when the system pays for a day of shooting it expects you to come up with a predefined product – about eight screen-minutes which they're counting on, I have to come up with 32 minutes total, which means four shooting days per episode.

Do you see yourself differently when you're working on auteur-style films such as "No. 17" (2003), "Nikolai," and "Luxuries" (2011) as opposed to those where your talent, skill and professional reputation are rented out to the corporation you're working for? Does it change how you feel about what's right or wrong to do?

I try not to let it. I have to admit that I see myself as a laborer even when I'm what you call an "auteur." Take Nikolai, for instance – five shooting days in Romania, another three shooting days here, meetings to discuss the budget, defining goals, and I know what I have to do in order to make it all happen. In dramatic productions, too, I really like the restrictions that the producers set for my work.

Do you show the participants the footage before the film is released?

I show it to the people. There are two reasons why I started showing them. There's a point where you want to earn the person's trust. You tell him, "Listen, I'll be with you at the shoot. If something bothered you, or if there's something you said, you're in safe hands. Don't feel like you have to guard your words." I tell him to guard his words as little as possible. On the other hand, I tell him: "I'll give you the opportunity to come to me after the shoot and say, 'This line and that line weren't good'." And this gives him a sense of security. Then, if at the end of the shoot he says "this line wasn't good," and I agree, I'll write it down, and if I don't agree, I believe in my skill as a salesman to sell him the line, to try and explain why it is good. I'll tell you something else that I realized which is very true when it comes to screening a rough cut with the participants: there's one of him and three of me. You see what I mean? I come to the screening with a cameraman, a sound recordist and a producer, and these people I work with are aware of the situation. So if the participant says he doesn't like a line, I'll tell him, "Listen, that line is important." Then he'll say, "I still don't feel right about it," and then I'll ask one of the crew members, "Yossi? Did you hear that? What do you think?" In other words I create a situation in which the participant has a basic right to refuse, but you're clever or sneaky enough to make sure it doesn't happen.

What you're basically saying is that you as the director, who's cleverer and more capable, use your superior powers to maneuver him?

To maneuver him toward what I want. Yes.

Some people say that documentary film is manipulative – exploitative and aggressive. Do you feel there's something inherently exploitative in working with the underprivileged? Does it bother you at all?

When you reach a situation in which the participant doesn't want to tell his story because he feels vulnerable, because he doesn't want his story to be made public, yet he does it anyway – he lets himself be filmed because he needs the money – that's a situation that's not only ethically wrong, it's artistically problematic. And there's no contradiction between the two. It's also problematic for a filmmaker to get things just because he signed a contract and got paid, and that's an unethical situation as well. That puts a very aggressive spin on documentary work and I can't work that way. But I believe that if the participant wants to expose his problem for reasons other than money, maybe just because he's an exhibitionist, then there may be many reasons to film him after all. It's complicated; you have to find the reasons which aren't money.

Aren't you ever ashamed of the fact that documentary cinema no longer cares about being invasive? That it has no inhibitions about revealing people's weaknesses? How do you perceive this problem?

There's a quote that's had a strong influence on me: "Nothing human is alien to me." I think it was Camus… I think there's something about the documentary ethos that tells itself that nothing can be alien to it. Let's be honest, there's nothing shameful about filming Hitler, and I would feel no shame in filming a concentration camp if I could. At both extremes are people, both Hitler and his victim, and it's legitimate for me to observe both extremes. In that sense I don't think there's anything shameful or unethical about it.

It sounds like a very utilitarian approach.

Yes. I'm a laborer and I do my job and I take advantage of everything I can in order to get the best result possible. I have to add that I don't hide this approach from myself or from the people I film. When I go to people and say "I want to film you" I relate to them as literary figures. I tell them that this is the story I want to tell, and they just happen to be right for the story. "You're right for the story I want to tell, and in order to tell it I'll need you to do this, this and this…" I don't hide it from them. Again, sometimes I say it straight out and sometimes I'm more subtle. It's different each time. It's not like there's a ceremony in which these things are said or defined, but I don't need to hide the information or keep it to myself.

Does revealing your intentions become both a condition and an ethic?

It enables me to manipulate in ways that I wouldn't feel right about otherwise. The other reason I show the participants a copy at the end of a project is that I allow myself complete freedom during shooting and during editing in order to tell the story as best I can, without ethical considerations regarding the participants.

Give us an example.

You film a scene in which you want a dramatic confrontation, and in reality the scene lasts for two hours. Out of those two hours, let's say for an hour and fifty minutes two people talked reasonably and really tried to listen to each other and it felt like people listening, not a dramatic confrontation, and as always, when two people talk for two hours, there are ten minutes when they raise their voices a little, so you do the simplest manipulation when you edit: You take the ten minutes when they raised their voices from the beginning, middle and end, put them together, and create a scene in which there's a confrontation that never happened over the whole two hours.

What gives you the right to take things out of their actual proportions?

There are people who've refused to do that. Some people would say: If I witnessed the scene and my impression was that there was no confrontation, then with all due respect I'd edit it this way, if it were a four-minute scene: For three out of the four minutes they'll talk, and there'll be only one minute of confrontation. I don't work that way. I say: In the context of this story, this scene has to show a conflict. And I'll show the resolution in another scene at the end of the film. And if that's what's required of the scene, than even during the shoot itself I'll try to heat up the action, to bring it to the point of obvious conflict, even if the people in the scene don't want it, and then I'll use all the editing tools at my disposal to insert the scene in its proper place in the story as I see it.

But what gives us documentary filmmakers the right to use these kinds of force?

The fact that the other party definitely gets something out of it. That is, when I know that he's getting something else out of our relationship. True, there's a use of force here, but there's no exploitation, certainly not utter exploitation. Here's an example: Dana and Amit. They're a couple. She's secular, he's Haredi [an ultra-Orthodox Jew]. I'm interested in making a film. They aren't. Why? The portrayal of Haredis in the media is rife with lies, fear and hatred. So I say to them: That's exactly why I want to do something different, I want to show that there's a way that a couple can engage in a dialogue despite the difficulties, despite their differences, despite the fact that the schism is constantly growing. I also say to them: "Look, I could find a couple going through a divorce, that's more dramatic… but I'm choosing you because you love each other." See the salesman in me? I'm selling them: "I want you precisely because you're in love, precisely because your love helps you overcome your differences. That's what I want to bring across." Once again, that's the salesman in me, but I'm also representing a message that I want to convey through the film. That is, precisely because everything is so polarized these days I want to say, "Look, it's not that they don't argue. They argue, but they can still maintain a home."

When you "sell," to what degree do you believe in what you're selling?

I believe in it. Otherwise I couldn't sell it.

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I ask because I'm surprised that you chose the word "sell."

Because it's tactics. What I really mean is, I want to make the film. I'm interested in the element of surprise, of breaking with convention. For example, I'm not interested in making a film that says "rape is bad," although it's an ethical statement. I'm interested in making a film about a rapist who's also a good man besides being a rapist. Now, that's interesting. I'm being indelicate on purpose. Meaning that this man is also helpful, he does all sorts of charitable acts, but there's something deep-seated in him that he can't overcome. I'm interested in the moment in which the viewer feels the dissonance between what he knows he should feel about this thing and what he sees on the screen. That's very important to me and that's what I look for.

What excites you most about people? What is it about a person that makes you aim a camera at him?

Lack of uniformity! The human. The moment when he deviates from our point of view is the most exciting moment.

For instance, in No. 17 (2013), the composite portrait artist. At first you see an unkempt-looking Haredi man who refuses to shake the interrogee's hand because she's a woman and he's religious. He's chewing – he just finished eating. His beard has bits of food in it and you can already feel the hatred you usually feel when you see these people walking down the street, a little dirty and sloppy, and you feel that… That's our nature. And since I know that if we spend another three minutes with this man he'll turn out to be a brilliant detective, that's what I like, that interests me, and I say, "Okay, in the first part I'll maintain his stereotype as long as I can," and as a director I know that the turning point will come – but I can already see it, I'm looking for it; if he stuck to his stereotype for too long I wouldn't make a film about him.

There's a sense in all your films that the intimacy is two-faced. On one hand it's self-evident and on the other hand it's never pornographic; it never gives one the sense that it's showing everything. So in our discussion of ethics and professional ethics the question is: What is required of your documentary act in order for me, the viewer, to see Nikolai's wife on the screen, crying at their parting, when I know that the parting isn't real? In other words, what are you as a director willing to do in order to make that totally fabricated intimacy appear to be real?

No, it isn't fabricated, it's utilized in a different way. I know Nikolai's wife well enough to know that she's in some state of depression. I see her true condition.

Was she already living in Israel when the scene was shot?

Yes. I take her back to Romania – to the breaking point, the place where it all began. I know she'll cry. So I say: These tears are tears of grief over her life, but they could also be tears of parting; in other words, they aren't fake, and that's exactly what text and context mean. They're real tears, just in a different context. It's understood that the protagonist would behave this way in this situation, and since he does behave this way I can take this behavior and use it in a different context. Nikolai, who, after three years in Israel building a life didn't have the money to go back to Romania, goes back to visit his village. Naturally, everyone is happy. So I can take that happiness, which is natural, with everyone hugging him, and put it into the film where Nikolai is deported. That's the idea.

So the fact that the emotion is real gives you the liberty to apply it to different points in the story based on your needs?

To use it in a different narrative.

To use it in a different narrative regardless of all that's sacred in a document – the factual context of a given event?

Yes. I think the viewer understands that the tears are deeper than the parting. And that not everything is stated.

The viewer sees the tears and understands and knows that she apparently cried but that something there isn't completely true. There's a certainly discrepancy/dissonance that can't be bridged.

Doesn't that discrepancy constitute an ethical problem? After all, it's kicking at a lot of sacred cows.

No, it isn't a problem; on the contrary, if there's one thing I find beautiful about the viewing experience it's that discrepancy. For a viewer who subconsciously understands that it exists. Ultimately, it creates a more intelligent viewing experience.

But people who watch movies don't always understand those contexts.

That's one good thing that reality TV did. It opened the discussion. Because reality brought the stories to such an extreme that in a very strange way it forced filmmakers to reveal their methods. And the most interesting aspect of have to reveal one's methods is that it didn't affect the enjoyment of the product. I mean, when I watch "Big Brother" I'm aware of the fact that manipulation is going on. Documentaries aren't what they were ten years ago – "Wow, it's real, I can't believe it's real." Now I know that they purposely took one guy and put him in this room, and the other guy created a conflict. The means of production are being exposed, and that's a welcome development. Today, when I watch reality TV, I'm a sophisticated viewer. It's revealed in the press, the reality stars talk about it, and I read the interviews ravenously. These things didn't exist before. Classic documentary cinema made a much bigger effort to hide the means of production than reality does.

You consider revealing the means of production a blessing?

Just like revealing my strong desire to tell a good story. For example, take the first scene in In Between (2013). He brings her the contract in which his rabbi says that he's only allowed to be filmed if he upholds the contract. So the first scene is the one that both documentaries and reality shows try to hide – signing the contract.

Why did you begin "In Between" with that? After all, you don't begin every film with it.

No, not every film, but my natural tendency is to say: "Folks, you should know, there was a contract." And the other thing is that the contract is the first conflict between them. The first drama, through which the viewer is introduced to the characters, not when they're arguing with the producers but with each other, and she, the secular one, is only willing to be filmed under those conditions and they each have different conditions. And I'm supposedly not involved. I tell them: As long as we're filming, agree among yourselves how you're willing to be filmed. This is a complicated scene because one of the conditions in the contract is that she be dressed decently. So before we shoot the scene I dress her decently so that we can use the scene if she agrees to be filmed. Before we shot the scene she was wearing a tank top, so I said: "No, come into the scene wearing that." And she didn't know why. Things only became clear when he came in with the contract. That's a double-trick that helps me build the image that I picture vis-a-vis reality.

Does the image that you picture always strive to see more than the protagonist sees at the given moment?

Yes. For instance, I tell Dana [the secular woman]: "Look. The rabbi requires that you be filmed in religious clothing. Nothing super-religious, but modest. Now, I see that when you're with him, you dress less modestly." Then I add: "And if there's one thing I really liked when I saw you (here I'm in the role of the salesman), it's the way you dress less modestly, but unfortunately I can't show that. But you know what we'll do? We'll talk about it. He'll come from the rabbi and say you have to dress modestly, and you'll tell him you refuse to do that. Tell him: "No way, I always wear revealing clothes," and he'll say: "But it's for the film," and from now on, every time we see you dressed modestly we'll know that it's because the rabbi said so, not because that's what you wanted. And this actually serves your purpose. It says two things: First of all, that you dress however you please, but under certain circumstances you'll willing to do certain things in order to attain certain things. Meaning domestic harmony. It means you're willing to negotiate, which is something that both you and I want to say, that despite your great differences you can still negotiate, discuss it." Then we all agree about the scene. You see how I work?

On one hand you claim that your work is based on arriving at agreements, but on the other hand you'll cause an argument, or make sure that they argue on screen even if they didn't really argue.

Yes. Dana and Amit, the protagonists of In Between, are an obvious example. She didn't want us to film them arguing. And every time she knew there'd be an argument she just didn't tell the production crew. And we weren't with them 24/7. Finally the time comes when you say, "Listen, if this film is to be about finding compromises between you, about the ability to negotiate despite your growing differences, then I have to create differences in order to show how you overcome them. You're not letting me film any of your differences." That's a dialogue I conduct with the character. I say, "I have to be somewhere, so next time you have a disagreement, either call me or we'll create one, something you feel more comfortable being filmed in." In other words, we discuss the situation. It isn't hidden and I've started liking it more and more that it isn't hidden from the viewer, that it's present as part of my development, but it's also part of the development of the language. Today's viewer is no fool. I say that in the context of people who watch "Big Brother" since it's considered a show for idiots. I'll give an example that's so subtle that nobody notices: The film Handa Handa 4 (2013). The whole thing is staged. This is hinted at in the name of the film. When, at the end of the film, the play "Handa Handa 4" is performed, it turns out that the play is actually the film. The film is actually a play about a couple whose parents say: It's about time you married. That's obvious from the poster. A sophisticated enough viewer will think, "Oh, the play has the same name as the film, so the play must be about the film, or maybe the film is a play?"

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Could it be that we're making a mistake when we attribute so much meaning to the ethical issue, in the sense that, ultimately, cinema is an art, an esthetic and an experience? Could it be wrong to attach all that ethical baggage to our work?

I'm afraid not. Because the more see my documentary work as instrumental, the more I realize that ultimately we're dealing with real pain and the real world. I'll give you a classic example from No. 17: After half a year of investigation we still can't figure out who the 17th casualty was. The film is already sold for broadcast and we're scripting a different ending. Not exactly scripting; there's an Israeli law that states that if a casualty isn't identified after six months, he or she can't remained buried under a hill of dirt. The state pays for a gravestone marked "anonymous." They tell us, "Enough already, it's been six months, there should be a gravestone." And we start to work on the ending, I even film it – the man who gets paid to arrange for the gravestone and how he tries to skimp a little in order to increase his profit, and how he calls the Ashkelon municipality and says, "There's going to be a ceremony and the media are going to be there, so somebody should attend," and I plan an ironic ending where a class of schoolchildren is standing there giggling, glad to miss a math lesson, with a gravestone marked "anonymous." And with amazing coincidental timing, two days before we film the ceremony, we get the phone number of the taxi driver, we get permission to perform a DNA test, and the ceremony arranged by the state is supposed to take place while we're waiting for the test results. And I, as an instrumentalist, think, "Wow, that's great. Let's have the ceremony, there'll be a gravestone, and when they open the grave, since I'm pretty sure by now that we've solved the mystery, they'll have to smash the gravestone and take out the body." And that's a really nice narrative loop, I want to do it, but then I tell my wife about the idea and she bursts out screaming: "You're crazy! This is a human being, soon we'll find out who his family is, the family will find out that a gravestone was made, that there are giggling schoolchildren there, that a bulldozer was brought in especially to smash the gravestone, and they'll feel hurt, and you're willing to do that just so you can have a narrative loop? Just stop the ceremony for a minute and say: Folks, we may have solved the mystery, let's stop the ceremony and see if we have an answer, and only if the answer is wrong will we go on with the ceremony. Why do you have to hurt them?" I say: Like it or not, it's better in terms of the story. I'm sure of it. But the time come when you need someone to open your eyes or cry out and say that this is real life, this is a real world and these are real people, and you have a responsibility beyond the story.

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So the truth, as far as you're concerned, is ultimately the story?

Yes. Or the way you look at it.

So in that sense, ethics become an instrument whose inherent difficulty turns into an advantage for you, as someone who's always building scenes in his head?

Yes. The best example is the ending of No. 17. We can now admit that the mystery occurred because of the police's heavy responsibility. But the film doesn't blame the police as any exposé show would. You have to realize that in my argument with the police I have an advantage, which is why they capitulate. Because I tell them that I can make them look bad but I choose not to. Why don't I end up making them look bad? Why doesn't the film end with a discussion of the police's massive blunder? Because I tell them that I don't want to make them look bad because of the way I want to build the ending. I need the ending to create a catharsis, release. My story is: Here, the tragedy is over and everything is back to normal. That's the catharsis. And I can't create a catharsis if the police screwed up badly, you see what I mean? That would create discomfort, not catharsis. So in one instance my desire to tell a good story harmed the police and in another it supported the police. I have no ethical problems with the police, all I want to do is tell the story, and since in once case it's in the police's favor and in the other it's against the police, I can tell them: "If you mess with me, I can mess with you." It's a tricky power game.

I get the feeling that in all of your films you touch on the most painful aspects of man's humanity, but not in the way traditional documentary cinema does, in the sense that it sees its role as pointing out the ill and addressing it poignantly. There always seems to be a hint of subtle irony or complexity that says that in the final analysis, "life is only…" In "Nikolai," for instance, it's the way the little town is depicted. In "Luxuries" it's the ironic, musical tone that says "it's all just make-believe…" But in "Luxuries" you highlight the banality of evil and of the possible repetitiveness of the Nazi mechanism and warn against dehumanization and so on. That is, ultimately, your position isn't "pedal to the metal all the way," it isn't as adamant as we'd expect from a penetrating documentary filmmaker.

That's right, it's ambiguous.

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Then what does documentary obligation mean to you? Don't you ever feel like crying out in a more direct, outspoken way?

No, not at all. I like the multiple polyphony of a story. I know how to create a sort of sweet confusion for the viewer who gets the feeling that the director believed whichever side he was with and didn't judge, so when I'm with one person I believe him and when I'm with another person I believe him, but hold on… After all, I'm not supposed to believe both of them. I love that! Because it forces the viewer to think. A stance like that forces you to confront yourself; it shows you how crucial the way you look at reality is.

And you don't see that multiplicity as avoiding taking a stand?

No. I want to believe that I know what my stand is and I have no problem saying what it is. I think the role of art is to awaken that brief moment of doubt. I think if we're too obvious we won't gain anything, artistically or ideologically. You'll be preaching to the choir, they'll go "tsk, tsk" and the film won't be interesting or artistic. When you get too preachy or obvious it isn't interesting.

I want to spend a moment on your persona as the village idiot and say that one of the pronounced aspects of how you portray yourself is as an innocent. I think of it as a "Socratic innocent" – "I'm a fool who knows nothing."

Right.

Then you do something or say something and it looks as if you just happened to ask a question or made an inadvertent gesture which actually leads to the answer.

Right. By the way, that's what wins people over.

Do they know it's an act?

No.

What persona do you create for yourself?

For example, in No. 17 I choose the persona of someone who doesn't know how to investigate, so the investigation mustn't continue based on his understandings. That's part of how I define myself as a character. And that's why there's always a scene where I offer advice: "Uh… maybe you should look into that." All those scenes are staged. They're scripted. They're a product of my innocent persona.

What you're basically saying is that the biggest lie, the biggest fiction in your work, is the way you portray yourself.

Yes.

Because in real life you're the antithesis of that.

Yes, I'm much more clever.

So you do something to yourself that you wouldn't do to anyone else.

I choose to portray myself in a constructive way.

Aren't you creating a persona which is the opposite of its own essence? Because you know what you want us to believe that you don't know!

Yes. One of the hardest or most interesting times I've had with this was when I made a movie about Eli Mohar as he was dying. We filmed him during his final days, and there's a certain moment when Eli Mohar asks me: "Do you know this song and this song?" And since I'm in character as a moron I say, "No, can you sing them for me?" He say, "What?! You must know this song by my father." I answer, "No, I don't know it. Can you sing it?" He starts to hum the songs… And I keep saying, "No, I don't know that one," and that's a special moment for me – a moment that relates to Eli Mohar's work "What's Happening In Our Town," about a vanished world, about nostalgia for the past. However, people who saw it were furious. "How could you send a director who doesn't know Eli Mohar to interview Eli Mohar?! How could you do such a thing?!" To me, this relates to a nice thing that Perlov said regarding feature films, but I think it applies to documentaries too. Perlov said: "Every time you direct a scene, imagine you have a little Japanese man on your shoulder who doesn't understand Hebrew, he doesn't understand Hebrew culture, he doesn't know who Eli Mohar is, and look at that Japanese man and ask yourself: Does he understand any of this?" That is, the position of someone who knows nothing about anything is the correct position because it forces people to explain. And if you're talented enough, they'll believe you.

 

Filmography

 No. 17 (2003). The Tale of Nikolai & The Law of Return, 2008. No Shame (2011). Luxuries" (2011). In Between (2013). Handa Handa 4 (2013)

ד"ר דןגבע - Director ד