VIFF 2017 Interview: FLAG director Matan Ben Moreh
By Jason Whyte
Posted 10/01/17 01:51:17
"Come have a look into a darker more sinister side of Israeli society: when a high school principal need to find out who burnt the Israeli flag at her school and all rules and codes of behaviour are broken and no one is innocent." Director Matan Ben Moreh on FLAG which screens at the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival.
Is this your first VIFF experience and will you be in Vancouver to attend your screenings?
It is my first VIFF experience and a great honor for us to be included in the festival, but unfortunately I will not be able to attend. Never been to Canada. One day!
Tell me a bit about yourself and your background, and how you got into the whole filmmaking business.
I think it all started when like so many others, I was left for too long in front of a TV as a kid. I watched too many movies over the years, worked as an usher in three cinemas, in different countries even. It's a teenagers' job which I did until my early 30's. At one point I felt lost and signed up to a film school in Tel Aviv. Now I am still lost but have a few movies behind me.
How did this movie come together from your perspective?
FLAG corresponds with my personal high school experience, but I changed the perspective so you see it through the eyes of the high school principal. In a way, I wanted to achieve some sort of closure for myself with this movie, and I could not have done it without my friends who helped. Yaron Ben-Haim, the talented cinematographer of the movie, and Eliya Melamed, my co-producer, even had to clean human feces for it. We filmed in an abandoned school in the south of Israel full of dead birds and debris and there was some mysterious squatter there who, for some strange reason, used the corridor and the classrooms as toilets. I am saying a strange reason because there were actually working toilets around. But the experience brought us closer together.
While you are working on a movie, what keeps you going? What drives you, creatively? How much coffee?
Well I don't drink coffee. What drives me is I know that my voice will not be heard if I don't make my movies. The cultural underground needs to rise up sometimes and I will do my part for it.
What was your biggest challenge with this project, and how did you over-come it?
Self-doubt and a negative approach are always up there for me as my biggest obstacles. However, I felt the story was too good to give up, and the support I had from my friends and family helped a lot. I was also lucky to get to work with such a cool crew. Sharon Hacohen-Bar, the lead actor, gave so much for the project and was amazing.
If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?
It is hard to choose. We had a lot of fun in that school and some favourite moments cannot be spoken of yet. So I will just say working with Anton "Klin" Ostrovsky, who played the Russian guard of the school. He is one of my favourite rappers, a really talented guy. He was hilarious on set and played his part perfectly.
For the aspiring filmmakers who read our site, I would love to know about the technical side of the film and your cinematographer Yaron Ben-Haim!
Yaron Ben-Haim the Cinematographer is a good friend of mine, and other than me he was the one most committed to the film. Naturally we got into fights during the production and after as there was not enough flag burning for his taste, but the most important thing is that we managed to stay friends in the end at least until our next film. The movie was shot on the FS7 just because that was the best that was available to us from my film school. Most of the crew were non-actors, just people from my circle who fitted the part. A small inspiration for the film was EVEN DWARFS STARTED SMALL of Werner Herzog and one grotesque caricature from Israeli politics.
Where is this movie going to show next?
Hopefully in other film festivals and after that I'm not sure.
If you could show your movie in any theater in the world, which one would you choose and why?
Beggars can't be choosers. But anywhere where people are interested I would love to show it. It was made with love and for people to see.
Movie theaters are the best place to see a movie, but sometimes they can be distracting! What would you say or do to someone who is talking, texting or being overall disruptive during a screening of your film?
Well there is a difference between talking and texting. I am very sensitive to the subject after years of working in cinemas and being the guy that asks people to stop talking and using their phones. Talking to a limit can be a natural reaction and I think it's interesting for the director to hear the uncensored thoughts of his audience about his movie, but maybe not about their shopping list to the mall after. Texting or checking your email is something else, they should just be taken outside and executed.
There are many aspiring filmmakers reading us for our articles and reviews for inspiration. If you could offer a nugget of advice to them on how to get their start, what would you say to them?
I don't feel I can give that advice yet. I'm still an aspiring filmmaker myself.
And finally, what is the best movie you have ever seen at a film festival, and why?
I have watched too many movies and worked in too many film festivals. It's all blurry now. I can say that at the moment my favorite film directors are Lina Wertmuller and Jean-Pierre Melville.
This is one of the many films screening at the 2017 Vancouver International Film Festival taking place in beautiful Vancouver from September 28th to October 13th. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to www.viff.org.
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte