Text size

When Nati Adler was 17, he was interviewed for a student film. The director asked him how his parents' divorce would affect him, and he replied, "I'm afraid it will affect my relationships in the future."

Today Adler, 35 divorced, and the director of "Hivtahnu Zeh Lazoh" ("We Promised One Another"), a documentary series on divorce that will be broadcast tonight on Channel 10, believes his words were prophetic.

The series he is directing, which he calls a "journey into darkness," is his way of coping with his past and influencing his future. It is not by accident that the series begins with an episode on children and ends with the children of divorced parents.

Adler, who directed the film "Buchachi" in the "Shiur Moledet" (Homeland Lesson) project and the documentary film "Hats of Jerusalem," which was screened at the Jerusalem Film Festival and broadcast on television by the Second Broadcasting Authority, is currently winding up his work on "Kololush," a feature-length film based on a screenplay by Shaul Bibi.

Adler came up with the idea of doing a documentary series on divorce (which now is what happens to one couple in three) over two years ago.

"Before choosing Kobi Meidan to present the series, we deliberated over whether we needed a divorcee for the job," recalls Adler.

"Kobi told us that the subject really interested him, and we decided that a married man who is experiencing that world for the first time would do a good job."

The series has six episodes - the first on children and the second on the transition from love to war.

Part Three is entitled, "Sex or Divorce" and deals with faithfulness and adultery, "an important topic, because there is hardly a divorce without unfaithfulness," says Adler. The fourth installment is about the new families formed the second time around, while the fifth episode is called, "The Ex Club," which is about "the quest for a new partner, the difficulty to separate and sever," and the final installment deals with "the children of those who try to be a couple."

No good memories

"No two divorces are identical," is what Adler says he learned while filming the series. "My parents' divorce was very extreme. They were getting divorced for years. It began when I was in second grade and went on for years because they didn't manage to split up. Once it was because of the division of property and the house. Then there were child custody issues.

"Every person I spoke with in the series was a familiar voice," adds Adler, "of my father or my mother. I could identify with all of them."

Following conversations with experts and those interviewed for the series, Adler has concluded that he does not oppose divorce.

"I am against bad and violent divorces," says Adler, "which are like bad and violent marriages."

His conclusions are not new, but meetings with him resonate a pain that does not subside.

"The worst thing is to blame the other side," continues Adler. "The experts and I personally know that it's horrible when the other parent is turned into the enemy."

Adler says that his parents' divorce matches most of the statistics for divorce. He, his older sister and two younger twin brothers grew up in a middle class home in Ramat Hasharon, and the divorce caused a "total collapse." His parents are very emotional - a surefire recipe for a bad divorce.

"They did not know how to turn their great love into friendship, and I want to shatter all the romance often attributed to such strong emotions."

Adler has no good memories from his life before his parents' divorce.

"No child of divorced parents whom we interviewed for the film remembers good times," he says. "Some remember nothing from before the divorce, even if they were 10 years old when it happened."

"I do actually have one good memory," says Adler after some contemplation, "when they brought us a dog."

If one wonders what Adler's parents' response was to the series, the answer is sad. His mother is ill, and his father died a few months ago from heart failure.

"That, too, matches statistics," says Adler, "which indicate that divorced men have shorter life expectancy. When my father heard about my work on the series, however, he was happy."

You seem to deal more with your parents' divorce than with your own.

"That has something to do with the fact that I have no children," replies Adler. "Throughout the making of the series, experts and interviewees repeatedly told me that divorce without children is not really divorce, even though that is essentially the reason we broke up.

My former wife wanted children and I felt that I could not bring children into the world until I was really ready."

My husband's servant

The first part in the series, this evening, is mainly girls speaking about their parents' divorce. Toward the end there are previews from the next episode. Among other things, there is a woman who explains that she basically got divorced because she was fed up with washing dishes.

Was there an intentional emphasis on the female angle?

"Concerning the children, no. The girls simply described their situations better and more succinctly. The boys had more difficulty talking."

The second episode focuses on the contention, presented by couples therapist Roni Piamenta, that one of the components in divorce these days is women's liberation.

That almost sounds like something negative.

"That is not my intention. They say 'I don't want to be my husband's servant.' While working on the series we learned that, in general, men will leave only if they have another woman, while my impression was that women leave because they feel dissatisfied with the relationship, for genuine emotional reasons."

Toward the end of our conversation, Adler tries to insert some balance into the difficult situation he depicts.

"We interviewed an expert who was ultimately not included in the series," explains Adler. "He spoke about the terrible damage divorce causes. He was not speaking from a moralistic position, because he himself is a divorced father. I felt that I was looking in a mirror, but it also aroused opposition in me. I also wanted to present positive aspects of being a child of divorced parents - the fact that such children adapt and are familiar with how complex life can be."

Working on the series and meeting with so many children of divorced parents created a sense of closure.

"It reminded me of a film in which Che Guevera is shown visiting a leper colony.In the series Kobi is the man coming to the colony, and I feel proud to belong to that colony, proud of my scars."