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Friday, Feb. 6, 2009

FILM INTERVIEW

Not dwelling on the politics


Jersusalem-born filmmaker Eran Riklis is one of the most prominent figures in the Israeli film industry, but his films ("On a Clear Day You Can See Damuscus" and "Cup Final" among others) have never been about straightforward Israeli politics.

News photo
The outsider: Israeli director Eran Riklis

Apart from films, Riklis' passion is soccer, as was demonstrated with wondrous flair in 1991's "Cup Final."

Apart from Israel, he has lived in various parts of the world since early childhood (accompanying a physicist father) including Canada, New York and Brazil. "I've always considered myself an outsider, though with soccer my loyalties are strictly with Brazil!" Riklis said with a laugh during an interview in Tokyo to promote his latest film, "The Syrian Bride." He went on to add: "But being an outsider is good for a film director. Always being on the other side of the lens peering at things — I mean, what else can one be?"

Here are some of the other things the outsider said:

When was the first time you peered at things through a camera lens?

I was 12 years old and my father gave me my first 8 mm. He was a film buff and you could say he was my guiding light to the world of cinema. I made my first short film at 14, which I must say was the sort of thing 14-year-old boys tend to make (laughing). But it did help me decide on a career.

What are some of the films that influenced your style?

I think my particular style is that I don't have one, or I try to avoid going there. Films like "Five Easy Pieces" and Lindsay Anderson's "If . . . ." have influenced me tremendously, but as a film buff as well as a director I think I can say that every movie I've seen has been a learning experience.

You've lived all over the world. How has that

affected your views on Israel?

I think that since the 6-Days War in 1967, we Israelis have labored under the illusion that we are people of a rich and powerful nation. The reality, however, is the opposite, though the illusion has remained. I'm interested in the different ways this illusion manifests itself, in individuals and society.

Apparently this is your first "women's movie."

Yes! I'm a little hurt that no one's calling it a chick flick (laughs). Seriously though, it's the first time I was around so many women, and at the same time quite an experience. Of course, I did a lot of research beforehand because this is a story where feminist issues merge with religious and ethnic issues and that tends to be especially sensitive with many audiences. The bride wasn't a problem. She was a symbol — of how things should be ideally, or a wish for peace and normalcy. She was there, and I could pretty much leave her alone. So I could concentrate my efforts on drawing her sister, Amal. She awakens to feminism on her sister's wedding day: Her wish for departure and freedom, the desire to learn something more from life. But Amal is not judgmental and neither is the film.

I think what I most wanted to show is that in a difficult political situation like this one, the men tend to step into their self-made molds of principles and convictions but the women have the flexibility to seek personal happiness and fulfillment. Women may be oppressed but somehow they find it in themselves to move on. Men on the other hand, are stiff and frozen in their tracks

Yet the movie is very kind on the men.

That's because they need more help than women, that's for sure! I especially felt that the father needed all the support he could get. I've seen many men like him, in Israel and all over the world. In a way, he's fantastic: so strong, and so in denial of his own feelings. He'd rather be arrested if he can be allowed to keep his pride. At one point he caves in, and makes peace with a son he had thrown out years ago. When we shot the scene where the father embraces his boy, the director of photography and myself were crying like babies.


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