Friday, January 19, 2007
MY VISIT TO DAYTON
Another article I found online. An interview with me before the screening of my film in Dayton.
Israeli director reflects on love & politics, war & filmmaking
By Mara Lee
The director of Out for Love...Be Back Shortly, Dan Katzir, says he was "lucky in film, unlucky in love." Out for Love started as a film-school project designed to help him heal after his service in the Israeli Defense Forces during the first Intifada. It chronicles his growing love for Iris, a younger woman about to enter the IDF.
But in Israel, there is no life without politics, and the political struggle during Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's last days — and his eventual assassination — is a backdrop to the piece. When the movie was released, it became a touchstone for Israelis stunned by the assassination.
There were other films that covered Rabin's killing, but this one, with the tragedy reflected through two people's reaction, touched people the most.
The result was that Iris and Dan couldn't go anywhere without people coming up to them and talking to them.
"We kind of lost our privacy," he said. "Iris didn't like this attention." Their unexpected celebrity status, combined with the pressures of touring the globe with the film, broke them up.
"I'm still out for love," Katzir, now 35, says.
Katzir will be in Dayton on Sunday, June 13 to discuss the film following its 1:45 p.m. screening. He'll also talk about the film Company Jasmine after its 5 p.m. showing. This film was directed by his mother, Yael Katzir.
In 2000, he moved to California to pursue a master's degree at the American Film Institute. He stayed because there are more opportunities for fiction filmmaking here, he said. In Israel, just a handful of scripts are filmed each year, and they have small budgets.
It's his dream to make it big here, and then take those connections and return to Israel to make a film that could penetrate the art house market here. Katzir thinks it's odd that Iranian films have wider appeal in that arena than Israeli ones.
Does he miss living in Israel? "Sometimes yes, sometimes no. There's a lot of stuff I like in Israel, there's a lot of stuff I like in the United States. In Israel, because of all the calamities, the people are more united as a community.
"There's more emotional and physical space in the U.S. Everything is more live and let live. In Israel, everybody feels they have to know — and have an opinion — about everybody else's business."
Still, he's ambivalent about living in the United States.
"I feel there's still a lot of antisemitism living in the United States," he says. Katzir says there are still people who see Jewish conspiracies everywhere — in banking, in Hollywood — and some Christians who blame Jews for killing Jesus.
He thinks that antisemitism has led to self-hatred among many American Jews, as well. "A lot of Jews, they try to disassociate themselves with anything that has the smell of Judaism or Israel," he says.
He doesn't feel that the Arab resistance to Israel is based on those same prejudices. In Israel, "the war with neighbors, it was about land, it wasn't about religion." When it's a territorial dispute, he believes there's the possibility for compromise.
What he doesn't miss about life in Israel is his reserve duty in the army. Israelis serve a few days here, a week there, making him feel as though he's never free of the war.
"I think that the fact that the whole population is serving as soldiers, I think that's damaging. We're a whole nation of post-traumatic people. It's very difficult to go back to civilian life. It should be a professional army. I think that we need a much smaller army."
He admits that maintaining the occupation is labor-intensive, but he thinks settlers should pay for their own private guards, because they choose to put themselves at risk.
"When I was in the army, they forced me to go and guard the settlers, opening and closing the gate on one of these (Gaza) settlements." He refused. He told the settlers if they wanted to be guarded, they should guard themselves. "Nobody protects my parents' house," he says. He told them if they wanted to court-martial him, they could. They threatened to, but he was never punished.
He hopes that Israel withdraws from Gaza. "It's not logical that they have tens of thousands of soldiers to guard a few hundred settlers."
Katzir believes Israel has changed, from a European culture to a Middle Eastern one, "always seeking revenge."
"Eye for an eye: we don't have that many eyes," he said.
Katzir helped his mother shoot Company Jasmine, a pro-army film about women fighting to take on more responsibility. Women are not in combat roles in Israel.
"That was very hard," he says.
"It's not that I'm against the army. Israel needs an army, just like they need a police force. I just don't think everybody should experience the horrors of war."
©2004 The Dayton Jewish Observer
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